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For around $620,000, Bethel settles 2 lawsuits and avoids a potential third

Bethel City Hall
Olivia Ebertz

The City of Bethel settled two lawsuits and one potential lawsuit, agreeing to pay out almost $620,000.

“After careful consideration, the full city council has decided to settle the three claims that were presented to us. The cost of settling the claims, which will be paid by the city's insurance company, will be a fraction of the potential cost of a trial, which would have been borne by the city's tax dollars,” said Mayor Rose "Sugar" Henderson after a June 27 city council meeting.

The first settlement was a lawsuit filed by Dan and Dawn Hackney against the City of Bethel. The Hackneys have been involved in a dispute against the city since August 2019 regarding the construction and bed and breakfast use of their Blueberry Subdivision property, which the city shut down. Although a former city planner had given the Hackneys verbal permission to operate their business, the current city planner, Ted Meyer, said that type of permission is invalid. Meyer said that the Hackneys’ business was “out of code.” The Hackney's will receive $262,000.

The second was a lawsuit filed by Brayton Lieb against the City of Bethel. Lieb claimed that he was unlawfully arrested and forced to stand outside barefoot in subzero temperatures. The Bethel Police Department, then led by Police Chief Richard Simmons, denied any wrongdoing. When officers took Lieb to the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center, the jail refused to accept Lieb because his feet were too badly frostbitten and he was taken to the hospital instead. He filed the complaint on Jan. 31, 2022, one year after the arrest. It has now been settled for $275,000.

The third stopped a potential lawsuit. It involved former City of Bethel employee Duane Wright, who served as the finance director from April 25 to November 14, 2022. Wright has alleged that he was wrongfully terminated. He will receive $82,703.

Francisco Martínezcuello is the KYUK News Reporting Fellow and a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.