STANFORD — A judge has ruled for the city of Stanford and Mayor Bill Miracle in a lawsuit filed by the city's former clerk.
Judge David A. Tapp granted a summary judgment in favor of the city July 25, finding that "no genuine issues of material fact exist" in Sandy Gooch's case claiming wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Gooch filed suit against Miracle and Stanford in November 2011, alleging the mayor repeatedly asked her to violate city policies and procedures, and then “concocted complete fabrications” in an effort to justify Gooch’s termination on Nov. 12, 2010.
Gooch's suit claimed she was fired because Miracle was concerned she would go public with accusations of the mayor’s improper activities and, ultimately, to create a job opening for his girlfriend.
According to case documents, Gooch wanted $47,593.72 for past lost wages and benefits, $500,000 for future lost wages, $100,000 for damage to her reputation, $100,000 for mental and emotional suffering and $100,000 in punitive damages, plus costs and attorney fees.
In his ruling, Judge Tapp wrote that Gooch has no claim for wrongful termination because she was an at-will employee who could be fired at any time.
As for the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, Tapp said there is a very high threshold of wrongdoing that must be met before someone can sue for such a claim.
Tapp cited case law establishing that intentional infliction of emotional distress claims must involve behavior that is "truly outrageous, intolerable and which results in bringing one to his knees."
"If true, the allegations asserted by Gooch constitute conduct of questionable morality," Tapp wrote. "However, even if Gooch was terminated so that Miracle's paramour could assume her position as city clerk and even if Gooch's termination letter … disseminated mistruths and lies, such conduct simply is not so outrageous and intolerable that it 'results in bringing one to his knees.'"
When contacted by phone Friday, Gooch directed a reporter to her attorneys for comment.
"We're not giving up," she said. "We're going to appeal."
One of Gooch's attorneys, Ephraim Helton, had not responded to calls asking for comment by press time.
Miracle said last week he was pleased with the ruling.
"We felt pretty good about it," he said. "I think this was probably the best thing that could happen for us with this particular suit."
City Attorney John Hackley told city council members Aug. 2 that getting a summary judgment is a difficult achievement. Over his career, he has dealt with around 1,000 civil cases and only seen five or six summary judgments, he said.
"It's a camel passing through the eye of a needle to get it," he said.
Hackley said Gooch had 10 days from Tapp's decision to ask him to reconsider the case and 30 days to file an appeal.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no additional documents had been filed beyond the summary judgment ruling in the case file.
Hackley said even if the ruling is appealed, he doesn't believe there's a strong case for overturning Tapp's ruling.
"I think it would be tough to overturn," he said.