Court says 2 former employees owed more by Collbran

The town of Collbran may be forced to pay additional amounts to two former employees who successfully sued the town for breach of contract, according to a ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals.

In a ruling handed down Dec. 16, a three-judge panel with the state’s appellate court found that former Clerk Shirley Nichols and former Public Works Director Erick Lloyd were entitled to “reasonable” attorney fees and costs above what they already were awarded in a 2007 lawsuit against the town.

The Court of Appeals ordered Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger to calculate those amounts, for a second time, and award them.

Shirley, Lloyd and former administrator Bruce Smith signed severance agreements with the town, which paid them a total of $153,000. The agreements specified all three would continue to receive health insurance well after their departure, through April 2006.

The lawsuit alleged the town breached contract in failing to make health insurance payments for coverage, and that it made disparaging remarks about the three to the public, according to the appellate court ruling.

Bottger eventually ruled that Collbran had breached settlement agreements for Nichols and Lloyd, but the town prevailed against Smith.

Bottger awarded some attorneys fees for Nichols and Lloyd, but they argued they were entitled to more because the town had contested their applications for unemployment benefits, too.

“Accordingly,” the Court of Appeals said, “we vacate the judgment to the extent it denied plaintiffs’ claims for fees under the agreements and remand for the trial court to recalculate and award reasonable attorney fees they incurred.”

The ruling also asks Bottger to determine whether Smith or the town should be ordered to pay attorney fees.

Smith is the administrator in De Beque, and Nichols is the town’s clerk.


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