Scottsdale pays $2.6M out of court over previous 4 years, records show

An outside view of the Scottsdale City Court building at (File photo)

In the past four years, Scottsdale’s public purse has paid out more than $2.6 million in out-of-court settlements.

From 2015 through 2018, a total of $2,681,425.77 indemnity payments have been issued, a Jan. 22 public records request shows.

The city document shows the events occurred between 2010-17, while the 2016 calendar year had the most payouts. The 29 payouts over the four years range from as low as $500 up to $855,000.

The settlements break down to be:

  • 2015: Five settlements equaling $997,000
  • 2016: 12 settlements equaling $1,030,260.10
  • 2017: Five settlements equaling $303,665.68
  • 2018: Seven settlements equaling $350,499.99

Claim types are either auto liability or general liability, the document shows.

Both policies pay for property damage or bodily injuries to other for which the city is liable, Kelly Corsette, Scottsdale’s communications and public affairs director says.

The general liability is for actions of employees, and premises issues that cause injuries. However, general liability policies always exclude any liability arising from use of an automobile. The automobile liability picks up any injury or damage as the result of use of an automobile and excludes all other injury types.

According to Mr. Corsette, each claim and case is evaluated on its individual merits.

“The decision whether to settle versus go to court is based on the facts and damages and types of claim being brought forward in each case,” he said.

“If the city is clearly at fault for an accident or injury and the injured party is making a reasonable demand to compensate them for their loss, that case is likely going to settle without much need for litigation. If the city feels strongly it did nothing wrong and the Plaintiff is making a frivolous claim against the city or if the plaintiff is making an unreasonable demand to resolve the claim, that case will likely have to be resolved in court.”

Mr. Corsette says overall, Scottsdale attempts to be the best possible steward of taxpayer dollars.

Out-of-court settlements for the city are paid out of the Loss Trust Fund, and Scottsdale engages in as much risk-management and loss prevention as it can, Mr. Corsette said, noting that not all claims are predictable or can be avoided.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Virginia Korte says she isn’t worried about the amount of funds paid in settlements, although she wishes the money could go toward municipal needs.

“My preference would be it go to capital projects, or to fund our failing infrastructure,” Ms. Korte said, noting settlement funds come from a specific account.

The seal of the city of Scottsdale. (File photo)

“We set aside and reserve these funds based on historical uses. I’m sure there’s going to be some anomalies in given years.”

Furthermore, the City of Scottsdale is a part of a case to be heard by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a special sitting to be held this week in Phoenix.

The oral argument for Save Our Preserve Political Action v. City of Scottsdale is scheduled for Friday morning at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, 111 E. Taylor St. at Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus.

The argument is in regard to an appeal from the denial by the U.S. District Court for Arizona for preliminary injunctive relief in an action brought by a political action committee that sought to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that would restrict construction in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Save Our Preserve Chairman Mark Stuart was tight-lipped on the upcoming hearing, but invited residents to attend the oral argument.

“If you want to see what the powers in the city do to try to override the voters, if you want to see the city wasting millions of dollars defending lawsuits, I’d encourage everyone to come to the hearing,” Mr. Stuart said.

Defendants in the case include the city, Mayor Jim Lane, individual City Council members, City Manager Jim Thompson, Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell, City Attorney Bruce Washburn, City Treasurer Jeff Nichols and other municipal department heads.

The civil case is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8, inside the W.P. Carey Armstrong Great Hall, ASU Beus Center for Law and Society. A photo ID is required for admittance.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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