Transparency claims filed against the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce last year were recently dismissed by a Pinal County Superior Court judge, according to court documents.
The lawsuit filed in May 2016 by Kimberly Diedrich, owner of a local nonprofit, requested the court force the Chamber to reveal documents surrounding its hiring process of former Chamber Director Sara Troyer.
Judge Brenda Oldham instead ruled in favor of the Chamber and dismissed the “complaint and all claims in this case with prejudice” in August 2017, while also enforcing a settlement agreement initially proposed by the Chamber earlier this year.
Court records state Diedrich and her husband Carl are ordered to pay $18,577 in attorney’s fees and related costs.
A press release sent by the chamber last week stated, “there was no evidence of ethical violations or impropriety presented through the process that involved the Chamber.”
Diedrich said that statement “could be misleading.”
“Since there was no evidence presented, I guess that statement is true, but because the settlement agreement prevented answering those specific questions before discovery began, it could be misleading,” Diedrich said.
Diedrich said part of the settlement agreement between her organization, Home is Where the Hound Is, and the Chamber included the dismissal of the initial lawsuit.
“Any characterization of the dismissal as anything else would be misleading,” Diedrich said.
Court records show the path toward reaching a settlement was difficult.
Prior to the final ruling, it appeared the Chamber, represented by its attorney, had reached a settlement agreement with Diedrich in late February. Court documents state Diedrich allegedly agreed to the settlement through email communication, but “refused to sign the settlement agreement in an email dated March 29, 2017.”
The chamber motioned the court to enforce the settlement in June, which the court granted.
Aug. 4, Diedrich challenged the court’s decision alleging, in part, the Chamber’s attorney failed to communicate with Diedrich and her husband Carl, also named in the case. Carl Diedrich was a candidate for the Chamber directorship when Troyer was hired.
“Ms. Diedrich believes the court should grant relief (…) because there was never any agreement made to the final settlement agreement and no binding contract was created because all parties were not informed of and/or agreed to the final settlement agreement,” according to court documents filed by Diedrich.
The court denied the motion for relief in September.
Chamber President Chris Cahall said the board would not consider changing its hiring process in the future to prevent similar lawsuits.
“The Chamber has always looked to partner with the city and its business community members to facilitate growth and will continue to do that in the future,” Cahall said.
In April, Troyer resigned in from her position at the Chamber to pursue a job prospect out-of-state. The Chamber then re-hired Executive Director Terri Crain.
Crain said she could not comment on the lawsuit.