Herald resident Laura Keister has filed a civil lawsuit regarding the removal of former Herald Fire Protection District board member Lance Newhall, as well as the use of public money to do so. Although Newhall was reinstated, Keister would like the court to determine whether the board’s original action was illegal and unauthorized.
A summons was issued to elected board members Stephen Stigelmayer, Dennis Johnson and Kevin Austin on Sept. 17, according to Sacramento County online court documents. The Herald Fire Protection District was also named.
Neither Keister nor the defendants could be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The lawsuit comes after Newhall, accused of making public comments about the job performance of a fire district employee, was removed from the board by other board members.
The May action was permitted under a little known board policy adopted in 2011 that allows a board member to be censured or removed.
However, after public outcry for removing an elected official and an admonition from County Supervisor Don Nottoli that the action was illegal, the board reinstated Newhall in June with a 3-1 vote. Stigelmayer cast the dissenting vote, and fellow board member Dell Primasing was absent. He was not named in Keister’s lawsuit.
“The board has voted to reverse this illegal action, but the interested person has no assurance the defendants’ actions won’t be repeated in the future,” the lawsuit reads.
Keister, who is representing herself, is seeking monetary damages in the name of Sacramento County taxpayers.
She believes Stigelmayer and other board members used approximately $3,000 in district funds to pay for legal advice to remove Newhall, according to the suit.
Keister claims the expenditure was made without proper board approval.
A court date has not yet been scheduled.
Newhall was re-elected last November with 29.8 percent of the vote, a higher share than any other candidate on the ballot. Johnson and Austin were also elected at that time.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.