Four years later, Spokane finally settles wrongful termination lawsuit
SPOKANE, Wash. — The City of Spokane and its insurance company are handing a $1.7 Million check over to a police officer for a wrongful termination lawsuit he won four years ago.
In November 2011 a Spokane jury found then-Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick had illegally fired the officer, Detective Jay Mehring, and then retaliated against him even after the veteran cop was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The city has spent the last four years trying to overturn the jury’s verdict but has now withdrawn its appeal and on Tuesday cut it’s final six-figure check to satisfy the judgment.
The case started back in March 2007 when Mehring was going through a messy divorce. A pair of police officers heard Mehring threaten to destroy his wife Lisa and burn down their home and told their superiors.
Mehring was arrested while on duty, was put on unpaid leave for 18 months while he waited for his felony harassment trial to get underway, but then the prosecution’s case fell apart when Lisa Mehring told the jury she did not take those threats literally and did not support the decision to charge him.
Officers cheered Mehring’s not guilty verdict and demanded the chief return his badge.
“I want to see him immediately reinstated per civil service rules and paid all of his back pay wages and everything that he’s got coming to him that he missed over the past 18 months,” Detective Ernie Wuthridge said at the time of the verdict.
Kirkpatrick did rehire Mehring, but according to the officer’s attorneys the chief continued to make his life miserable and the jury agreed.
“She refused to give him back the position he had prior to her actions before, she refused to recognize he was not guilty of the charges brought against him and she refused to recognize that he was a stellar employee who was deserving of position,” Attorney Susan Nelson with the law offices of Dunn & Black said.
The jury awarded Merhing more than $700,000, including $250,000 in punitive damages that specifically named the former chief.
“We’re tagging you with $250,000 in damages personally. these were 12 citizens, 12 citizens who said your conduct is not tolerable,” Nelson said.
While the jury had intended Kirkpatrick to pay that $250,000 out of her own pocket, the city council had previously voted to indemnify her against any damages.
Since that time we’ve elected a new mayor who has hired a new chief and we are told there’s a lot more communication going on between city hall when Spokane police officers face any type of disciplinary action.