Franklin County commissioners will appeal an unemployment claim by its former public works director who was fired in March for failing to prevent an alleged multimillion-dollar embezzlement by one of his employees.
Commissioners Brad Peck and Bob Koch voted Wednesday to challenge Tim Fife's application for benefits to the state.
They also said they want a county attorney to continue talking with Fife or his attorney about other ways to resolve the disagreement.
Commissioner Rick Miller said he would support the appeal, but voted against the motion because he is opposed to the county having any more contact with Fife.
"I don't want to get involved in negotiations because of where it could lead, or possibly a lawsuit," Miller told the Herald.
Fife could not be reached about Wednesday's vote.
He was fired March 26 as public works director and county engineer for not preventing an alleged $2.8 million theft by Dennis Huston, the public works accounting and administrative director.
Fife was a 25-year county employee who became the public works director in 1992. His pay was $107,817 when he was fired.
Fife was placed on administrative leave after Houston's arrest Feb. 2 in connection with allegedly skimming money through false invoices to a fictitious company in Spokane.
Huston has not been charged with a crime, and the investigation has been turned over to the state Attorney General's Office for further investigation.
Commissioners fired Huston and then Fife for mismanaging his department.
Fife's application for unemployment is confidential, said Sheryl Hutchinson of the state Employment Security Department.
Federal law prevents the release of any personal information about an application for benefits, including the name and when the applicant filed, she said.
An appeal would put the case before a state Office of Administrative Hearings judge, who would hold a public hearing with testimony and evidence.
Koch said appealing the unemployment claim gives the county an opportunity to try to work things out. "It leaves us in a position where we can pull the appeal at any time," he said.
Koch noted that Franklin County is self-insured for unemployment insurance, and he wants to keep the costs as low as possible because it is "constituents' money."
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org