The Kentucky Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Kathleen Imhoff over her dismissal seven years ago as executive director of the Lexington Public Library, and it has returned her case to Fayette Circuit Court for a possible trial.
Imhoff sued the library in 2010 for more than $5 million in damages. She alleged that she was dismissed in violation of her employment contract, that she was publicly defamed by the library board chairman, and that she was discriminated against because she is a woman.
Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark dismissed Imhoff’s second and third claims but referred the first to an arbitration panel. In 2013, the arbitrators ruled that the library must pay Imhoff $927,491 because it fired her without citing a cause. They awarded Imhoff salary and benefits for the remaining two years of her contract at $446,129, plus damages, interest and fees totaling $481,362.
However, Clark ruled in 2014 that the arbitrators erred or exceeded their authority on several points. He limited Imhoff to $256,940 in unpaid salary for the remaining two years of her contract, ruling that “the broad implication” under the contract is that Imhoff must be paid unless the library cited a reason when it dismissed her.
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Neither Imhoff nor the library’s board of trustees were satisfied with that outcome. Both appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which ruled in January that Clark erred by upholding any part of the arbitrators’ decision. Imhoff waived her right to arbitration by suing the library, the appeals court said. Because Imhoff was the one who chose to litigate, her concerns should be settled in a courtroom, the appeals court said.
Imhoff appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which declined on Aug. 17 to hear the case. The case is now back before Clark on the remaining issue of whether Imhoff’s contract entitled her to two more years of pay. Imhoff has not received any money so far, her attorney, Richard Getty, said Thursday.
“We start all over again after seven years. Can you believe it?” Getty said. “From day one, we said to the library board, ‘Look, just pay her what you owe her.’ But they didn’t want to pay her a thing.”
Keith Moorman, an attorney for the library, said the library previously attempted to settle the suit with Imhoff, “but we couldn’t get close on the numbers.”
The library dismissed Imhoff in 2009 after the Herald-Leader reported on more than $134,000 she spent on travel, meals, gifts and other items over five years. A city audit later raised questions about library spending and reported that 1,522 images of “adult materials” were found on a library computer assigned to Imhoff, in violation of library policy.
Imhoff defended her spending as proper and denied viewing adult images on the computer. Imhoff said she took the computer home with her for work duties, and someone else evidently used it to view the images without her knowledge. She also said her office at work had been broken into on three occasions, allowing someone to tamper with her computer.