Paxton council approves settlement of lawsuit filed by former police chief

Paxton council approves settlement of lawsuit filed by former police chief

PAXTON — The Paxton City Council has approved a settlement agreement to resolve a lawsuit brought against the city by former police Chief Bob Bane.

Urbana attorney Ron Langacker filed the eight-count lawsuit in January in U.S. District Court in Urbana on behalf of Bane, alleging he was fired illegally by Mayor Bill Ingold last summer in retaliation for taking the city to court for overtime pay he believed he was owed.

As part of the settlement agreement, which was approved by an 8-0 vote during a special meeting, Bane will receive a $130,000 payment. The city will pay $65,000 of that amount, with its insurer, the Illinois Municipal League Risk Management Association, paying the other half.

Among the other terms of the agreement:

— Bane will be allowed to remain on the city's medical insurance plan.

— The city will rescind its Aug. 29, 2017, termination of Bane's employment and instead accept his resignation as of that date, allowing him to retire in "good standing." If the Illinois Department of Employment Security decides to seek reimbursement of unemployment benefits paid to Bane, it will be Bane's obligation, not the city's, to satisfy such repayment.

— Bane agrees not to "seek or accept any position affiliated with the city of Paxton, whether it be by employment, appointment or election."

— The city's elected officials and employees have agreed "not to disparage" Bane "in any manner whatsoever" as it relates to his employment. Meanwhile, Bane has agreed to do the same in regards to the service of those elected officials and employees as it relates to the circumstances surrounding his firing.

— Bane is prohibited from bringing any further litigation against the city in connection with his firing.

Bane said Tuesday that he was not permitted to comment on the lawsuit, per the conditions of the settlement. Attempts to contact Bane's attorney were not immediately successful.

City Attorney Marc Miller advised aldermen not to publicly discuss the lawsuit or settlement they approved Monday night, since it was an "employment matter."

"The mayor has the same instructions about not being able to comment on it," Miller told aldermen. "But he does have a public statement that he'll make so that there is an official statement from the municipality."

The mayor later read the prepared statement following the council's vote.

"Neither side is admitting fault, and both sides are simply making an economic decision to put this unpleasant chapter behind them," said Ingold, who, along with all eight alderman, was named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"Litigation is an expensive, lengthy process with no guaranteed outcomes," Ingold continued. "The city believes that this settlement removes that uncertainty and allows the city to look forward, not backward.

"The city is pleased with the quick resolution to this claim. The city is confident that it and its police department are on the right track and that the police department is in capable hands under (current) Chief Coy Cornett."

Alderman Bill Wylie, chairman of the council's finance committee, said between the settlement and unrelated costs associated with tearing down dilapidated homes in town, the city will need to adjust its budget to reflect the additional expenditures, which he said will exceed $100,000 combined.

However, Wylie said he was confident the city would still not need to spend any of its reserves and might still be able to add to them by the end of the fiscal year in April 2019.

The council asked that Wylie and Comptroller/Treasurer Tammy Jensen decide where exactly in the budget the settlement payment will come from.

All aldermen voted in favor of accepting the settlement, with H.J. Flesner noting that his "yes" vote was made "very grudgingly."

Will Brumleve is editor of the Ford County Record, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit fordcountyrecord.com.