Small Idaho City in Danger of Losing Insurance on Aug. 1

July 18, 2005

A small northcentral Idaho city is in danger of losing its insurance Aug. 1 amid turmoil that includes the departure of its police chief in January and resignations of its city attorney and two clerks over the past couple weeks.

Lapwai gets its insurance through the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, a cooperative of local governments which covers property and casualty losses, including employment, police and auto-accident related claims. It also covers officials for on-the-job errors.

Following the departure of the two city clerks this past week and the attorney the week before that, a sign on the Lapwai City Hall door Friday read: “Closed until further notice.” That comes after administrators with the insurance program told the city in a July 1 letter that the situation had grown untenable.

“You have participated in activities which increase liability to the other members of the ICRMP pool,” according to the letter from Boise-based Richard Ferguson, the insurance program’s executive director. “Therefore, effective Aug. 1, 2005, your insurance coverage … will cease.”

In an interview with the Lewiston Tribune, Ferguson didn’t provide specifics on the alleged activities that prompted the decision to drop coverage.

He did say this is the first time the program has ever considered terminating a member.

Without the clerks, Jeanne Calkins-Greiner and Lois Sonnen, Lapwai doesn’t have enough employees to keep its offices running, City Councilor Edmund Berry said of the office closure.

There are just two other employees, both maintenance workers.

Feuding in this city of 2,000 on the Clearwater River went public in January, when Mayor James Angle fired the police chief, Brad Mittendorf. On instructions from the insurer, Mittendorf was reinstated and placed on administrative leave. He eventually resigned in an agreement in which the insurer paid him $32,779.

Mittendorf wasn’t replaced.

Angle also fired the city attorney, Edwin Litteneker of Lewiston, in January. The mayor, who hasn’t discussed the firings with reporters, then hired David Risley for the part-time position.

Risley, who quit last week, would say only that he left because he doesn’t have time to perform his duties as city attorney.

Calkins-Greiner and Sonnen declined Friday to discuss their resignations.

Angle has said he’ll appeal the insurer’s decision to drop the city’s coverage at the cooperative’s next meeting July 26 in Kellogg.

The city’s policy – valid for the rest of July – includes provisions to address employment disputes, Ferguson said, adding he could intervene following the city-employee exodus.

“In addition to insurance, we offer legal counseling and will attempt to work with the city to address any employment concerns that may arise from their departure,” he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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