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Downton Valley: Drama Among the Staff at Idaho's Glitziest Resort Town

Chronicling the scandal in the Sun Valley City government


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Timeline of the Breakdown

October 2011: Treasurer and Finance Manager Michelle Frostenson makes known her concerns about alleged misuse of city funds and property, and falsification of timecards, by various city employees.

November-December 2011: Boise-based attorney Patricia Ball conducts a wide-ranging audit of the city's finances regarding the activities of city employees including then-City Administrator Sharon Hammer and several members of the Sun Valley Fire Department. The audit finds evidence to support instances of misconduct and violation of city policies, and recommends further investigation.

January-October 2012: At the request of Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office conducts an investigation of alleged time-sheet fraud and misuse of city funds and property by then-City Administrator Sharon Hammer and then-Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes.

Jan. 19, 2012: Hammer's contract as city administrator with the city of Sun Valley is terminated without stated cause.

March 2012: Sun Valley police receive reports of as many as two separate break-ins at the Sun Valley fire station, where burglars—apparently with inside access to the building—deleted and otherwise removed emails and personnel files in February and, possibly, early March.

April-August 2012: The city of Sun Valley asks Boise-based law firm Moffatt Thomas Barrett Rock & Fields to conduct its own investigation of alleged misconduct by Hammer and Carnes, as well as Carnes' wife, who handled Sun Valley Fire Department timekeeping and his son, a Sun Valley firefighter. Moffatt Thomas then contracts with accounting firm Hagen Streiff Newton & Oshiro to undertake a forensic audit of each department in the city.

April 19, 2012: Newly elected Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe goes public with news of the apparent break-ins at the Elkhorn Fire Station at a meeting of the Sun Valley City Council.

June 2012: Frostenson and City Clerk Kelly Ek leave their jobs with the city after settling tort claims against the city alleging they were retaliated against for exposing the alleged instances of misconduct by Hammer, Carnes and others.

June 25, 2012: A defamation suit filed by Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi against Hammer's attorney—and husband—Jim Donoval is thrown out by a district judge. Soon after, Ribi's wife files her own complaint against Donoval.

June 27, 2012: Hammer files a $3 million lawsuit against the city, claiming she was assaulted, defamed and wrongfully terminated. On June 29, 2012 she files another suit demanding her old job back.

July 13, 2012: Hammer files a lawsuit against Ek for alleged defamation in two separate stories published in the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper.

Aug. 20, 2012: Hammer's attorney Donoval files suit against the city and the Idaho Attorney General's Office seeking original documents pertaining to bills paid by the city and expenses authorized during the period covered by the forensic audit. The suit claims documents were altered or destroyed to implicate Hammer and to whitewash the role that Briscoe—then a City Council member—played in alleged financial mismangement of the city.

Sept. 21, 2012: Carnes and his family members resign from their various city positions, after Carnes—a 38-year veteran of the department—had been on administrative leave for several months.

Nov. 21, 2012: Blaine County Prosecutor Thomas writes in a letter to Briscoe that there isn't enough evidence to justify filing criminal charges against city employees for alleged misconduct.

December 2012: A report by the Idaho Attorney General on break-ins at the Sun Valley fire station, where emails and personnel records were deleted, finds that the city's

police department did not fully investigate the incident.

January 2013: A judge in the Fifth District orders that Hammer's attorney Donoval can file no more subpoenas in a defamation suit brought against him in December 2011. The ruling follows months of legal back-and-forth, during which time Donoval filed several subpoenas demanding access to Ball's 2011 report.