Staff Recommends Fort Smith Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit With Former Sanitation Director

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Fort Smith city staff has recommended the Board of Directors approve settling a lawsuit with the former sanitation director, who was fired after officials learned the department was dumping nearly all of its recyclables in a landfill.

In a Tuesday (March 12) letter to the board, City Administrator Carl Gefken wrote that the settlement involves paying $33,500 to Mark Schlievert as well as 100 percent of the mediation fee.

"If the city had not settled and this case were decided at trial, our legal fees would have been almost $30,000," Gefken said in the letter.

"The lost time of nine city staff to prepare for the case and sit through the trial would have cost about $10,000. The total cost to the city would have been almost $40,000."

The final amount was reached after a nine-hour mediation conference between the city and Schlievert on Feb. 27, Gefken said.

Schlievert initially sought $553,000 in damages, which included lost wages, future wages and mental anguish.

Schlievert’s termination surrounded the city’s controversial recycling issue, which, for three years starting in October of 2014, found the department trashing over 91% of its recyclables at Fort Smith Landfill without telling the public, according to Talk Business & Politics (TB&P).

Most of this occurred outside of Schlievert’s watch, TB&P reported.

Schlievert decried his firing and described it as wrongful termination. His lawyer, Joey McCutchen, said Schlievert was the scapegoat in the recycling debacle that had plagued Fort Smith before Schlievert was hired in 2016.

The board meets tonight at 6 p.m. in the Fort Smith Public Schools Service Center.

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