Four former officers of the Collegedale Police Department have won a $412,500 settlement from the city of Collegedale, saying they were forced out of the department for complaining about an "illegal quota system" in which officers were required to make a certain number of enforcement actions.
On July 3, 2019, subsequent to his termination in January, 2019, Officer Robert Bedell filed a lawsuit against the city of Collegedale, Chief Brian Hickman and City Manager Ted Rogers.
On Oct. 24, 2019, subsequent to their termination in September, 2019, three other officers, Kolby Duckett, David Schilling and David Holloway, also filed a lawsuit against the city of Collegedale, Chief Hickman and City Manager Rogers.
After two years of litigation, the city of Collegedale and the officers announced that they have mutually agreed to settle and resolve all of their claims to their mutual satisfaction.
Attorney Janie Parks Varnell, who filed the suit along with attorney Bryan Hoss of the Davis Hoss law firm, said the settlement will result in the dismissal of two pending lawsuits, Duckett, et al, v. Hickman, United States District Court and Bedell v. Hickman, Hamilton County Circuit Court.
She said, "The settlement reflects that the claims were disputed and there was no admission of fault or liability.
"The plaintiffs have also agreed to separately dismiss their claims against Ted Rogers and Brian Hickman pursuant to the settlement with the city of Collegedale. As a part of the settlement, the city and its insurer have agreed to pay to the officers a total sum of $412,500. The city also agrees to provide a neutral reference for any potential employers.
"In exchange, the plaintiffs agreed to a full release of their claims and to dismiss both lawsuits."
On behalf of the officers, Attorney Varnell said, “The plaintiffs are very pleased with this resolution. They are happy to put this behind them and move on with their careers.”
Collegedale City Attorney Sam Elliott said, “Although the city maintains its actions were lawful, this settlement will allow Collegedale to remove the distraction of the lawsuit so that it can focus on the needs of its citizens.”
Collegedale Commissioners ratified the settlement at a meeting on Monday night. On the recommendation of City Attorney Elliott, the commissioners "made a business decision" to settle the lawsuit rather than taking it to trial.
Attorney Elliott said that the city’s insurance coverage diminishes as the lawyers work on the case, and the lawyer fees are charged against it. A decision was needed whether the city should run the risk of the policy being substantially diminished if the case went to trial or to settle.
Insurance will cover $350,000 of the settlement. The agreement also includes that a statement will be placed in each personnel file that the allegations of wrongdoing are withdrawn.
The commissioners approved the settlement with Mayor Katie Lamb hesitating. “Much to my disgust,” she said she would vote yes, saying she has a problem using taxpayers’ money that way.
The financial report for August for Collegedale saw a substantial increase above the amount budgeted for the last payment of the Hall State Income Tax, said Michelle Toro, finance manager. She also said that as of August, the sale of surplus items has doubled from the budgeted amount. Income from both of those sources can be used for payment to settle the lawsuit. City Manager Wayon Hines said that a significant unbudgeted amount has also been received from building permits this year, which can be used.