Former Port St. Lucie police chief Shinnamon's suit against city dismissed

PORT ST. LUCIE — Former Police Chief Don Shinnamon's suit against the city, claiming he was wrongfully terminated in December 2010, has been dismissed.

Shinnamon claimed he was terminated without cause and proper notice, which violated his contract. He said the city owed him $237,000 in lost salary, benefits and retirement income.

Late Friday, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers received the dismissal order from city spokesman Ed Cunningham and Senior Assistant City Attorney Pam Booker. The order states the case was thrown out because the terms of Shinnamon's employment contract show the "employee shall serve at the pleasure of the CM (city manager) and shall be an at-will contractual employee of the city ..."

"The plain language of the contract as a whole makes this agreement an at will employment contract," states the order. "The renewable duration provision is one of expectation only. The amended complaint fails to state a cause of action and the motion to dismiss is granted."

Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers was unable to contact Shinnamon late Friday.

It is unclear when the order was signed. Booker said Friday "we've been informed by the judicial assistant the order has been signed."

St. Lucie County Circuit Court Judge Dwight Geiger gave the order.

Shinnamon's contract was set to expire Jan. 11, 2011. According to his contract, the city needed to give him three months' notice if it chose not to renew. With no notice, the contract would have automatically renewed through January 2013.

"Defendant has breached the agreement by not paying him his salary, benefits and other economic losses incurred through Jan. 11, 2013," Shinnamon's Feb. 17 complaint states.

Shinnamon was fired on Dec. 2, 2010 as a result of "a personality conflict," said former City Manager Jerry Bentrott in an interview with Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in August 2011.

Cunningham said Friday the city does not have any financial responsibility in this case.

"The city's position was that it was within the city manager's rights to end the chief's position here and find another chief because it just wasn't working the way that the city manager at the time wanted it to," Cunningham said. "It wasn't the right relationship that he wanted, and so it was within his rights to find somebody else, and he did that.

"We're now ready to move on. We have a good police chief in place right now. We're very satisfied with him, and we're going to move forward."

Reporter Alexi Howk contributed to this report.

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