Reacting to a financial settlement with former Fire Chief Tom Gavin Wednesday, Ruidoso officials issued a prepared statement contending the lawsuit was unnecessary and that settling was a matter of convenience.
Gavin sued the village over his termination in 2011, contending it stemmed from his handling of a fire inspection at a local business and subsequent "whistle-blowing" on the handling of the incident by the village administration. He now works as a police officer for the city of Ruidoso Downs.
"The vast majority of Gavin's claims had previously been dismissed by the U.S. District Court of the District of New Mexico and by the (12th Judicial) District Court of Lincoln County," the village's statement read. "These included claims for violation of his First Amendment rights, violation of procedural due process, wrongful termination and a violation of the Inspection of Public Records Act."
The only claim left was that his termination constituted retaliation for whistle blowing activities, according to the statement.
"The village's position has always been that the lawsuit was unnecessary, because Mr. Gavin was offered an opportunity to continue his employment with the village," Village Manager Debi Lee said in the release. "However, his decision to pursue litigation is what brought this matter to this point. We believe it is in the best interest of the village to settle this matter so that we can continue to move forward in a positive direction."
She pointed out that the resolution was reached without the village acknowledging any liability.
"In addition, it constituted a compromise of Gavin's claim in that he is not being reinstated in his employment with the village nor is he receiving any payment for any damages allegedly arising in the future," she said. "The settlement involved payments categorized as back pay, subject to appropriate deductions for taxes, (retirement), and the like, and a payment of a certain amount to Gavin's attorney for costs and attorney's fees."
Gavin's' attorney J. Robert Beauvais characterized the settlement as "six figures" when he discussed it for an article on the settlement that appeared Wednesday in the Ruidoso News.
Lee said the settlement was reached after consideration by the village, the village's insurer and Gavin concerning the uncertainties of the litigation process with regard to the amount of time and cost that could be involved in appeals.