A man filed a civil lawsuit against Wrangell city officials. Kipha, or “Kip”, Valvoda alleges that the city discriminated against him in its hiring process for the past seven years. Valvoda also alleges a level of cronyism in city hiring.
In Valvoda’s complaint to the superior court of Alaska in Wrangell , he claims the defendants “colluded to void the rule of law of the city and Borough of Wrangell” and says the previous and current assembly members and staff showed “willingness to bend, break or change the laws to suit their personal agenda.”
There are eight defendants in the suit. Those include most of the previous assembly lead by then mayor David Jack. Jack, Steve Prysunka, Drew Larabee, Julie Decker, Patti Gilbert and Roland Howell received summons for this complaint. As well as City Manager Lisa Von Bargen and Capital Facilities Director Amber Al-Haddad.
Valvoda has applied for city jobs in the past. Most recently for maintenance positions at the schools. Last year he applied for the Public Works Director position. Then Assembly member Roland Howell was offered the job, contingent that the assembly approve the hiring. Wrangell code says elected officials cannot take city jobs while serving on a board or up to six months after, unless the assembly approves a waiver. The code is meant to dodge any potential conflicts of interests. The assembly did approve the hire and issue a waiver, believing a fair and equal hiring process was followed and that Howell had no inside profits to gain or nefarious intentions.
In an email to KSTK back in November, Valvoda said he would sue the city based on that hiring. He’s written a few letters to the editor in the Wrangell Sentinel describing the city as a good ol boys club.
Assembly member David Powell did not receive a summons. While this is not apparent in the complaint, Powell was the one member of the assembly at the time that did not vote to approve Howell’s hire.
Valvoda is seeking $700,000 in damages. He is also requesting all defendants and their immediate relatives be barred from holding current and future city positions.
The borough assembly had a closed door session this week to discuss how to move forward as defendants in this lawsuit. The defendants are requested to respond to their summons by mid April.