I sent an email out to all City Council members and the City manager. I would like to thank Council members Mike Newman and Marian Brady for getting back to me and the clarification provided.
Mike Newman:We did not settle on the invocation issue, we are free to continue our policy. What was settled was the matter about the Mayor involving City Personnel in a Prayer breakfast several years ago.
City Attorney clarification (via Councilmember Marian Brady):
The US Supreme Court in the Town of Greece case held that invocations at city council meetings were lawful. That decision, however, does not prevent Ms. Beaton from appealing the decision issued by the trial court in Humboldt County in favor of the City. By settling this issue now, it saves the City a substantial amount because we have all agreed that Ms. Beaton has to pay for the cost of the appeal and her attorneys’ fees even if her appeal is successful.
I addition, the cost of a trial would have been substantial and while the City felt it was on solid legal ground there is always a risk. By settling it before trial, the City will not incur substantial attorneys’ fees and costs to defend and will not have the risk of paying Ms. Beaton monetary damages and her attorneys’ fees and costs at the conclusion of a trial.
As is true with any unfounded claim or lawsuit against the City, the City has to make decisions about the costs to defend and the risk the claim poses. In this case, it was decided to pay Ms. Beaton a portion of her attorneys’ fees (no monetary damages were paid to her) and permit her to go forward with her appeal, without further cost to the City, to end the matter.