Q&A: Police officer settlement


From Register Publications:

Q: A city recently accepted the resignation of a police officer who entered a plea agreement related to felony charges. The officer was on paid leave until late December, then on unpaid administrative leave with benefits. The city clerk-treasurer provided me with how much the city spent on those benefits – over $12,000 – and the board of works accepted the resignation in open session following an executive one, all of which I reported.

However, I later received an anonymous tip from a city official that the BOW agreed to a settlement with this officer, presumably to get him to resign rather than forcing the city to fire him. Under the supposed settlement, the officer would be paid $11,000 and be hired at the municipal utilities department.

If this is true, presumably I could find the payout in the city’s financial records after the fact, given the time needed for a non-accountant such as myself to make sense of financial records. Likewise, his employment will be obvious down the road if the officer goes to work for the utilities. But would the settlement itself, if it exists, be public record?

A: If the city has a document that memorializes the settlement, it would be a public record and more importantly it should be disclosable for inspection and copying because I don’t believe they can point to any statutory authority to keep that public record confidential.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.