A judge ruled Wednesday that there is not enough evidence to support Routt County's claims that its former chief building official has personnel files he was asked to return.
Mark Marchus, Routt County's former chief building official, appeared in court and denied having two duplicate personnel files that county officials have said they think he has.
After an hour and a half of testimony and arguments, Senior Judge Edwin Ruland made the preliminary finding that there was not enough evidence to show Marchus has the files.
Marchus' attorney, Charles Feldmann, argued that the county did not have enough evidence to bring such a suit against Marchus, who also is a candidate for Routt County commissioner.
After the hearing, Feldmann said he was pleased with the ruling but unhappy with the process.
"It's unfortunate for Mark to continually be drug through the process," Feldmann said. "It's just clear attempts to make him look bad."
The lawsuit comes more than two months after Marchus was terminated on allegations that he did not create a good working environment at the department and violated county gift polices by taking stones a contractor was throwing away. Marchus has denied those allegations.
When Marchus moved out of his office, he left behind several duplicate files he used as supervisor files. Other personnel files could not be found, so the county asked Marchus about them, and Marchus returned nine that he said he mistakenly had taken.
Two other files are missing, and the county brought a lawsuit against Marchus in late March to find out where those files could be.
County Attorney John Merrill compared the situation to one in which someone lends a friend a car for a day, then sees the friend at the end of the day without the car, and the friend says he doesn't have the car.
"That's not a satisfactory answer," Merrill said. The concern with the personnel files is that they contain Social Security numbers and other personal information.
During the hearing, Marchus said he did not have the two missing files or know where they are. He said his best guess as to why the files are missing was that he left them in his office when he moved his personal property out, and he said he did not destroy the files.
Also during the hearing, past tensions and disagreements within the Regional Building Department surfaced.
For instance, Carl Dunham, who was assistant chief under Marchus and is serving as temporary chief of the department, testified that he and Marchus disagreed about how some sections of building code should be implemented and that he occasionally complained about Marchus to other employees.
Wednesday's hearing was held based on the county's request for a quick preliminary motion to let employees know that everything was being done as quickly as possible to find out about the files, Merrill said. The lawsuit is pending, and Merrill will discuss the situation with county commissioners to get further direction for proceeding.
Feldmann said he plans to file a lawsuit against the county within the next week to try to get a fair and impartial grievance hearing for Marchus.
Ruland thanked the parties for their "calm demeanor" during a case in which "there are some strong feelings."
A status conference on the case will take place at 4:30 p.m. June 3.
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