The Bethel City Council appears to be trying to put some contentious issues behind it, moving to settle three potential court cases this week — one of which involves the city’s former finance director.
Duane Wright, who was fired on Nov. 14, made statewide headlines last summer when he claimed less than 20 percent of Bethel businesses were properly paying their sales taxes. Wright began sending out audit letters to non-compliant business owners, which quickly brought him into conflict with them. The council eventually approved an amnesty program for some of those businesses in October.
Another settlement will bring an end to an ongoing fight between the city and Dan and Dawn Hackney, who added a bed-and-breakfast to their home in 2019 but were ordered to tear it down after city officials said they had only verbal permission to build it.
The third will settle a lawsuit by Bethel man Brayton Lieb, who says he was unlawfully arrested and made to stand outside barefoot in subzero temperatures during a January 2021 police call. Lieb sued both the city and a police officer.
“After careful consideration, the full city council has decided to settle the three claims that were presented to us. The cost of settling the claims, which will be paid by the city’s insurance company, will be a fraction of the potential cost of a trial, which would have been borne by the city’s tax dollars” said Mayor Rose “Sugar” Henderson.
It’s not clear how much the settlements will cost. The mayor said that the settlement agreements authorized by the council will be a matter of public record after they’re signed.