A lawsuit brought by a former police detective against the City of Sitka is going before a mediator, and could be settled out of court.
Attorneys for former Sitka police detective Ryan Silva and the city informed the court in a hearing on Friday (8-2-19), that they had scheduled a mediation for September 11, before retired judge Eric Smith, of Palmer.
Silva had filed suit against the City of Sitka and former police chief Jeff Ankerfelt in August of 2018, claiming he had been subject to abuse and demotion after reporting that the department had improperly procured automatic weapons, among other issues.
In its response, the City denied all allegations.
A trial in the case was scheduled to begin on September 16. Presiding Judge Trevor Stephens now thought that date impractical, coming only five days after the start of mediation — but rescheduling a two-week trial proved no easy matter. The earliest opening in the Sitka Court calendar was on November 12, but it would require bringing in a different judge. A December trial date was available, but both attorneys would be trying another case the week prior.
Attorney Jim Davis argued that it would be more fair to the plaintiff to keep the original September trial date. “The last person who should be injured by the delay of lawyers is Mr. Silva, who’s out of a job.”
Megan Sandone, counsel for the City of Sitka, was in favor of moving the trial, but wasn’t keen on bringing in a new judge. “My hesitation,” she explained, “is that this case is long and complicated.” She urged Judge Stephens to find a time next year when he could preside.
Stephens decided to reschedule the trial for November 12. That another judge would have to relearn this case from scratch didn’t appear to bother him. He said: “My hope is that you all will be able to resolve this in mediation, and this will be moot.”
Sexual harassment suit still on track for trial
A related case concerning a former Sitka police detective who filed a sexual harassment suit against the city remains on track for trial next spring.
Mary Ferguson filed her lawsuit in October of last year. She appeared before Judge Trevor Stephens for a status hearing on July 24.
Attorneys for the City of Sitka had filed a motion for summary judgement in the matter, arguing that the statute of limitations applied to Ferguson’s allegations of sexual harassment, but — in a 64-page ruling — Judge Stephens denied their request.
He scheduled a two-day evidentiary hearing in Sitka Superior Court on November 25 and 26.
Ferguson’s full trial is scheduled to begin in Sitka on March 2, 2020.