City pays $50K to settle suit from fired officer |

City pays $50K to settle suit from fired officer

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The City of Glenwood Springs paid ex-police officer Jeffrey Lindsey $50,000 on March 5 to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit he filed against the city in 2002.

The $50,000 check, issued by the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency – the city’s insurance company – was made out to “Balcomb and Green Trust Account.” Balcomb and Green was the Glenwood Springs law firm representing Lindsey.

According to Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon, the city must pay half of the settlement amount and the insurance company will pay the other half.

The only other settlement information released by the city stated that the services of Josh A. Marks, the city’s Denver-based attorney on the case, were paid for by CIRSA.

“Nobody admitted any liability on either side,” Hanlon said. “We just resolved the matter and the case was dismissed.”

A Freedom of Information Act request was filed by the Post Independent to obtain the few terms of the settlement that were released. All other terms of the settlement remain sealed.

“The balance of the settlement agreement deals with his employment records,” Hanlon said. “It’s information in his employment records that’s not subject to the Open Records Act.”

According to the text of the lawsuit, Jeffrey Lindsey, an officer for the Glenwood Springs police department from November 1998 until March 2002, was fired for “actions during one arrest and inventory search that took place on Feb. 16.”

Police chief Terry Wilson, city manager Mike Copp and city human resources director Sebrina Hoffmeister each were named as defendants in the suit.

Suspicious spare tire

According to text in the suit, Lindsey was working with officer Jeremy Rainwater when they stopped and arrested a man who had four outstanding warrants against him, including warrants for felony narcotics charges.

The act in question occurred after the suspect was placed into custody.

While Rainwater was bringing the suspect to jail, Lindsey searched the car, finding a spare tire in the trunk that felt “heavier than expected” and appeared “fully inflated without having air in the tire,” the suit said.

Figuring the tire might have contained drugs, the suit said Lindsey checked with Rainwater, who said to look inside the tire and to call Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team officer Chris Danielson if he found anything.

“Believing that he had permission from his superior officer, TRIDENT officer Danielson, and from the primary officer, officer Rainwater, plaintiff cut the tire in a manner exhibited in (Glenwood Springs Police Department) training materials published by the DEA and searched the inside of the tire,” the suit said.

The suit did not reveal whether drugs were found in the tire.

Follow-up investigation

About 10 days later, the suit said chief Wilson began an investigation into Lindsey’s search. He interviewed officers Rainwater, Matt Hagberry, then-Sgt. Bill Kimminau and others, but the suit alleges he did not interview the suspect, Danielson or Lindsey – each of whom were involved with the incident.

On March 7, 2002, Lindsey met with Wilson, then-Lt. Lou Vallario and a sergeant about the tire search.

At the meeting, Lindsey was told that he had violated the department’s search and seizure policy by cutting the tire to search it. Wilson characterized the actions as “well beyond the scope of accepted practice within conventional law” and that they “may reach the threshold of prosecutable law.”

The suit says Wilson informed Lindsey that Copp had given Wilson authority to take action in the matter.

He took that action on March 14, 2002, firing Lindsey.

Lawsuit settled

The lawsuit said the city failed to follow proper procedure in terminating Lindsey, refused to produce documents related to his termination and refused to allow Lindsey to depose witnesses testifying against him.

At an administrative hearing on the matter, which took place over 16 hours on May 29 and 30 at City Hall, the suit alleged city employees in the reception area were told not to speak to Lindsey, his attorney or his friends and family. Also, neither friends nor family were allowed to attend the hearing, it said.

During the hearing itself, the suit claimed that of 16 hours allotted for the hearing, the city took up more than 15 1/2 hours, leaving only 19 minutes for Lindsey to present evidence and witnesses on his behalf.

Lindsey was seeking compensatory damages – including lost wages and benefits, reinstatement to his position as a police officer, removal of all disciplinary items two years old and older from his personnel file, punitive damages and attorney fees.

According to the stipulation for dismissal, filed Feb. 11, 2003, in U.S. District Court, each party is responsible for their attorney fees.

The two sides settled the case out of court, and it was officially dismissed on March 17.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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