High-ranking Pima administrator seeks $6M over bicycle-crash injuries

2014-01-10T00:00:00Z High-ranking Pima administrator seeks $6M over bicycle-crash injuriesBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The second-most-powerful person in the Pima County administration has filed a claim against the county, asking for $6 million in damages.

Martin Willett, the chief deputy county administrator, was seriously injured in June when the front wheel of his bike got stuck in a “drainage gap” on the Dodge Boulevard Bridge.

Willett, who was wearing a helmet and other safety gear , shattered a number of bones in his back, requiring nine surgeries over the last six months, the claim says.

Hundreds of pages detailing Willett’s medical procedures and subsequent bills, filed with the letter of claim, already total more than $700,000.

His attorney, Earl “Sam” Daniels, said, given the extent of Willett’s permanent injuries, that his medical bills will continue to mount .

“In simple terms, he has shattered his spine at multiple levels. His surgical fusions are in the infancy of healing. Martin’s associated pain is constant, unrelenting and permanent,” wrote Daniels.

The claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks to settle with the county for $5 million for his injuries as well as $1 million for the suffering of Willett’s wife.

Shortly after the accident, county officials closed the bridge to cyclists and work was performed to make the area safer for those traveling on two wheels.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who is close friends with Willett, said he has asked the head of the county’s risk management division, Lauren Eib, to appoint an outside consultant and attorney to look into the claim.

He said while the report will eventually come to his office for review, Huckelberry is distancing himself from the ongoing investigation.

The Board of Supervisors, he said, will eventually discuss the claim or subsequent lawsuit in executive session and make a decision on how to proceed.

Huckelberry said it is rare for the county to receive claims related to bicycle accidents, noting the county has been involved in a high-profile lawsuit only related to an accident during the Tour de Tucson.

A spokeswoman for Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall had no comment on the claim, stating that the office has a policy not to comment ongoing legal matters.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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