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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Eikmeier seeks closure in legal battle with City of Omaha

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cherokee City Administrator annexation 'victim'

Two former Elkhorn, Neb. City employees, including current Cherokee City Administrator Don Eikmeier, continue their legal battle with the City of Omaha, Neb. over the forced annexation of Elkhorn in March, 2007.

Don Eikmeier
Eikmeier and former Elkhorn City Clerk Cheryl Eckerman are asking the courts for the City of Omaha to pay interest and attorney fees accrued while continuing their legal battle. They have appealed a 2009 Douglas County District Court ruling, saying they're due the additional monies under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act.

A Douglas County District Judge ruled in early 2007 that severance agreements for Elkhorn City personnel were unconstitutional because the severance payments would have been received after annexation.

Eikmeier, Eckerman and other Elkhorn City employees adopted the severance packages as deferred compensation for continued employment while the ultimate demise of the City of Elkhorn played out due to Omaha's annexation. The severance payments should be considered wages under the law, according to Eikmeier.

"We had to do something (severance packages) to keep our employees from leaving while we fought the proposed annexation and the City of Omaha didn't like the fact we fought it," said Eikmeier.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in favor of Eikmeier and Eckerman and ruled that Eikmeier receive an estimated $52,500 and Eckerman an estimated $11,000 from the City of Omaha for the severance packages built into their contracts.

Contrary to an Associated Press story Monday, Eikmeier said Monday that those monies have still not been paid. He said he and Eckerman are also seeking more than $22,000 for interest and legal fees that the Omaha City Council refuses to pay.

"The deferred compensation provided to Eikmeier and Eckerman was not gratuitous; it was in exchange for their continued employment and was compensation for labor or services and, additionally, it was previously agreed to before Eikmeier and Eckerman continued their employment," their attorney Jeff Miller, wrote.

Omaha's Deputy City Attorney said in court filings that "explicit case law in Nebraska establishes that severance payments are not covered" by the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act.

However, the Nebraska Supreme Court has determined that the severance payments were valid because they were promised to employees several years before the annexation and before the involved employees performed years of services for the City of Elkhorn.

To be eligible for the severance pay, Elkhorn City employees had to remain on the job until the annexation was final. Also, those workers' jobs had to be eliminated as part of the annexation.

In its original legal action fighting the annexation, Elkhorn went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and lost.

"It's a frustrating, on-going legal issue," explained Eikmeier Monday. "We went up the ladder and won and now we have to go back up the ladder again. We simply want the City of Omaha to honor the agreement we had and that the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with."

Arguments in the case are continuing this week.

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