Former city administrator Patrick Marsh has filed a lawsuit against the City of Fitchburg over items he claims went missing from his office when staff cleaned out his office in January.
In a complaint and summons filed in Dane County Circuit Court on Monday, Aug. 2 – three days after he received his last severance paycheck from the city July 30 – Marsh asks for a judgement of $10,000 and the return of his property he claims was not delivered to him after city staff packed up his personal items from his office.
His personal items were cleaned out of his office Jan. 19 and were later delivered to his home on Jan. 27 by Big Dog Movers after they were taken to Axley Attorneys’ downtown Madison office, emails between Marsh and city staff that were obtained by the Star through a records request state.
The lawsuit comes four months after the Common Council denied an insurance claim from Marsh that asked for $250,000 in compensation for three “priceless” keepsakes he said were in his office. Marsh had six months to take further legal action after the council denied the insurance claim, per city ordinances.
Marsh signed a voluntary resignation agreement in January paying him six months’ salary. He had previously accused the city of packing up his office without his consent and failing to include the items as a part of his insurance claim, according to a letter from him to the city that was included in the Tuesday, March 23 council packet.
Marsh told the Common Council prior to its vote on the claim that he planned to pursue litigation against the city if alders were to deny it.
“A great use of city resources – congratulations,” he said as he addressed the council during public comment March 23. “I expect to be reimbursed for these items in full, as described in my claim. Denial of the claim will result in taking this case to the courts … I don’t believe the city wants to look any more foolish than they already do.
“The whole situation is unacceptable,” Marsh added. “I’m sure the courts will agree.”
The items he claimed went missing from his office are: a Marine Corps ring that belonged to his father, who died of COVID-19 in December 2020; a framed American flag that was flown in honor of Marsh in Iraq; and a signed photograph of NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton.
City staff cleaned out his office after more than one person, as well as the city’s insurance company, had asked city leadership to not allow Marsh come back to pack up his office because of behavior multiple employees saw as intimidating, a city official told the Star on Wednesday, March 24. The Star is not naming the official because of potential litigation concerns.
The behavior that concerned employees occurred both before and after the approval of the separation agreement, the unnamed official told the Star. Marsh told the council in March he had returned twice to the building to retrieve personal items after being put on administrative leave Nov. 30.
In emails between city staff, Axley attorney Michael Westcott and Marsh that were obtained by the Star, Westcott told Marsh the items he listed as missing were not in City Hall.
“My understanding is that you routinely did not lock your office nor the drawers to your desk,” Westcott writes in a Feb. 9 email to Marsh. “Those personal items you have identified that were not provided to you simply were not there. The City cannot return what it does not have.”
In a letter dated July 12 included in the complaint, the city found Marsh’s original birth certificate and college transcripts, his performance appraisals from his employment with the City of Monona, a photograph in a paper frame and personal receipts from a spending account within folders that were inside file folders there were marked as city documents.
The city has until Aug. 31 to respond to Marsh’s complaint, when it will need to appear in small claims court at 9 a.m. that day, the summons states.