Boise & Garden City

Trial begins in wrongful termination claim by former McCall police chief

Gerald Summers claims City Manager Eugene Drabinski fired him in April 2013 in retaliation for supporting a different candidate to lead the resort town.

Summers had backed Carol Brockman, a deputy Valley County prosecutor. Summers had worked with her during Brockman’s seven years as a deputy prosecutor and five years as a McCall contract prosecutor.

Drabinski was initially hired as interim city manager in August 2012, following the resignation of former City Manager Lindley Kirkpatrick. Drabinski originally said he would not be a candidate for the permanent position but later changed his mind and applied for the position.

Summers, who was on a committee made up of city department heads who were involved in interviewing and selecting finalists among 16 candidates for the position, said he told Drabinski he supported Brockman.

After the McCall City Council selected Drabinski for the job, Summers said the city manager continually questioned his loyalty and created a hostile work environment.

He said Drabinski was upset after Summers — who began his career in McCall as a code enforcement officer in 1997 and moved up the ranks to become chief in 2005 — reported to the city council that Drabinski was illegally driving on a suspended license. He said Drabinski also moved toward him in a threatening manner during a discussion with the police department on a community survey on the department.

Drabinski denies doing anything improper. He said Summers failed to acknowledge his role in creating a negative public perception of the police department and refused to work with him to improve the department’s image. He also said the chief had lost the confidence of the business community and three of his four subordinates within the department.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge, in a pretrial ruling, found the city had shown the basis for Summers’ termination was a “legitimate, nonretalitory reason.” The burden, Lodge said, shifted to Summers to prove at trial that the reasons given by the city were a pretext for retaliating against him.

Summers is seeking reinstatement, back pay and benefits and damages to be proven at trial.