Friday, December 23, 2011
The dismissal of a suit brought by a city manager against the city attorney has been affirmed by the Vermont Supreme Court.
Plaintiff, the former city manager of Winooski, appeals from the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the Winooski city attorney. Plaintiff sued the city attorney, individually, for breach of fiduciary duty in the course of municipal infighting over plaintiff’s performance as manager and the city’s decision to dismiss him. Plaintiff’s complaint is that contrary to the fealty owed him by the city attorney, the attorney embarrassed and humiliated him by threatening cross-examination at a municipal hearing concerning his suspension of the city’s police chief, and by signing a disparaging letter and press release calling for his resignation. Plaintiff claims compensation for personal anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, and nightmares resulting from the city attorney’s actions. The trial court determined that the city attorney owed plaintiff no fiduciary duty beyond the attorney’s duty to the city. We affirm.
No basis for liability because:
...there were neither findings nor evidence that the city attorney, implicitly or explicitly, represented plaintiff individually or in any capacity other than as city manager. Moreover, there was no evidence that the city attorney undertook, as a private lawyer, to represent plaintiff. Lacking any lawyer-client relationship, or any other relationship evident between the parties in their private capacities, it cannot follow that the city attorney owed plaintiff a duty of faithful conduct for the personal benefit of plaintiff, as claimed.
The link to the Winooski web page comes from me and does not appear as a link in the opinion. (Mike Frisch)