A federal judge last week dismissed former Provo City Council attorney Mike Thornton's lawsuit against Provo City.
However, Thornton can still proceed with a defamation lawsuit against Councilman Dennis Poulsen who allegedly told others that Thornton was fired for embezzling city funds and because he was mentally ill.Thornton was fired in June 1996 after telling former Councilman Karl Thalman about tape recordings of telephone conversations possessed by Mayor George Stewart that were made surreptitiously by Councilwoman Shari Holweg. He was also fired for allegedly telling City Attorney Gary Gregerson inaccurate information about his conversation with Thalman.
Thornton filed a federal lawsuit claiming the city defamed him, breached his contract, violated good faith and fair dealing and other claims.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled Thornton's agreement with the city allowed him to be fired for any reason within the first six months, so the city therefore violated no contract. Kimball also ruled that the city did not need to provide Thornton a hearing, as he had claimed.
"If no justification for the termination was required, a hearing to consider the termination would be fruitless," Kimball wrote in his ruling.
Kimball also ruled that the Utah Supreme Court found that good faith and fair dealing standards are not applicable to employees who can be terminated at will. The judge also said the city has qualified immunity against Thornton's claims.
Thornton also claimed in his suit that his position as a public servant required him to inform the public about the tapes. However, Kimball said telling Thalman was not informing the public, and at the time Thornton did not know if the tapes were of concern to the public or that it was in the public's interest to know of the tapes.
Kimball did not dismiss Thornton's claim that Poulsen defamed him, and Thornton can still proceed with his lawsuit on that claim.