Ousted Airports Chief Files Lawsuit

SANDPOINT — Bonner County’s ousted airports director contends he was jettisoned from his job after blowing the whistle on the waste of tax dollars within his department.

Jim Kaiser is seeking damages in excess of $10,000 and reinstatement to his position overseeing operations and employees at county airports in Sandpoint and Priest River, according to a wrongful termination suit filed in 1st District Court on Wednesday.

Kaiser’s counsel, Sandpoint attorney Alison Dunbar, said in the suit that her client competently served as airports director for approximately three years. However, Kaiser said he reported Dave Schuck, the airports’ business manager, for claiming work hours which could not be substantiated. Kaiser also expressed concerns that conflicts of interest existed with Schuck’s employment because Schuck is related to county Commissioner Dan McDonald and also worked full-time for an unspecified company which rents space at one of the airports.

Commissioners, the suit said, resolved to terminate Schuck’s position in December 2017 due to job-performance issues and staffing cutbacks. However, McDonald urged the board to delay the firing to prevent awkwardness around the dinner table, the suit said.

“At that meeting Commissioner McDonald remarked that he would prefer to delay Mr. Schuck’s termination as to avoid an uncomfortable situation at his family’s Christmas dinner,” the suit said.

After the holidays, Kaiser reiterated his concerns to commissioners and contends the board confirmed Schuck should be shown the door, which led to Kaiser firing Schuck, according to the suit.

“Mr. Kaiser was then rebuked by the commissioners for terminating Mr. Schuck, and Mr. Schuck was allowed to retain his position,” the suit said.

Kaiser said he continued to press the issue of waste of public resources, but the board and the county Human Resources Department told him to “ignore this problem,” the suit states. Kaiser prepared a package of evidence documenting the waste and Schuck’s conflicts, which was delivered to commissioners in May.

“The following day, Mr. Kaiser was put on leave, and informed he would be terminated on June 2, 2018,” the suit said.

Schuck, meanwhile, was given Kaiser’s position, according to court documents. In addition to damages for wrongful termination, Kaiser argues the county was prohibited from taking an adverse action against him for communicating in good faith the waste of public funds, property or manpower.

Bonner County officials do not comment on pending litigation.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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