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by the Sandpiper Editorial Board

Pat Vergne center. Photo Bill Morris.

Pat Vergne and the City have turned the page on a disruptive chapter in Del Mar’s history, with the settlement of Vergne’s remaining legal claims against the City. Vergne has agreed not to seek employment with the City in the future, will receive $45,000 from the City, and the City will pay the cost of the mediator who brokered the deal. Moving forward, Vergne has just begun a term on the Del Mar Foundation’s board of directors, and will take over responsibility for the Summer Twilight Concerts.

Vergne has handled himself with grace throughout the time since his termination on August 23, 2017, as did City Manager Huth as he sat through long sessions of heated comments, many aimed directly at him. Sadly, however, the quality of our public discourse took a big hit, with some residents publicly excoriating the city manager and council with predictions that the City would pay multi-millions to Vergne for defamation or wrongful termination. Now that the outcome is known, it’s worth noting what actually occurred.

After filing a $5 million claim against the City, Vergne filed a lawsuit that included defamation, wrongful termination, fraud, conspiracy, age discrimination, and whistleblower claims. The defamation claim was not only dismissed, but Vergne was ordered by the Court to pay the City $9,670 for its legal fees. The wrongful termination, fraud, and conspiracy claims were also dismissed. The age discrimination and whistleblower claims were the remaining claims that were resolved in mediation, shortly before the scheduled trial date. Other than the $9,670 payment to the City, each party will pay its own attorneys’ fees.

If hindsight is great teacher, there are some lessons in this episode for all of us. Skepticism in the face of claims that the City had defamed Vergne, and that there would be a multi-million dollar award against the City, was clearly warranted. Patience, it turns out, remains a virtue: waiting for a fuller picture with respect to facts and legal claims before jumping to conclusions. Most important of all, we as Del Mar citizens could learn from the grace under pressure exhibited by both Vergne and Huth, and strive for a more civil civic discourse. As it is, we are still recovering, as a community, from the harsh and extraordinarily divisive way we responded to this truly sad chapter in our history.

The Sandpiper wishes Pat well in his new role with the Foundation and its Summer Twilight Concerts. We appreciate his decades-long role as a valued member of our community.



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