Ex-Poplar Bluff city manager contract case drags on

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

POPLAR BLUFF -- The legal battle over the Poplar Bluff City Council's challenge of former city manager Doug Bagby's contract continues to be fought with a variety of court filings.

No date has been set for a hearing on motions pending in Butler County Circuit Court.

On Aug. 26, 2003, Bagby signed a three-year contract when he was hired as city manager.

During a closed session May 5, the new coalition on the Poplar Bluff City Council fired Bagby. The only reason given was to "go in a new direction." The vote was 5-2.

Bagby contends that two years and four months remain on his contract and the city still owes him approximately $278,000.

The five council members then asked interim city attorney Robert Smith to file a petition for declaratory judgment against Bagby. They want a judge to void the city's contract with him.

Smith filed the petition May 30 and then filed a motion for summary judgment July 7, contending the contract "was at all times illegal and void as a matter of law from its inception."

On Aug. 27, Bagby's lawyer, Daniel Moore of Poplar Bluff, filed an answer to the city's motion and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, requesting the court to rule the contract is "legally binding" and to order the city to pay the contract's remaining term.

Moore maintains Bagby "was guaranteed at all times under the contract three years of employment and city is bound under the doctrine of equitable estoppel to honor the contract."

Moore also filed suggestions in opposition to the city's motion for summary judgment and in support of the cross-motion.

He contends Bagby "was not terminated for any misconduct or malfeasance in office, but rather as a result of a political purge."

"The present council is entitled to change city managers. However, they are not entitled to breach an agreement," Moore said.

He noted the previous councils had observed the agreement for 11 years.

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