More than four months after the parties agreed to the terms of a settlement, the lawsuit brought on the city of Bayou la Batre by former police captain Darryl Wilson remains unresolved in federal court.
Wilson filed suit against the city, former mayor Stan Wright and former council members Louis Hard and Mathew Nelson in 2011 —alleging Wright retaliated against him after discovering he was assisting the FBI in a corruption investigation of the former mayor.
Those allegations were substantiated when Wright was convicted of a charge of retaliating against a witness during his criminal proceedings in 2013.
Though the conditions of the settlement have been outlined, United States District Judge Kristi DuBose delayed her final approval at a June 10 hearing over concerns of how the settlement was “procedurally postured.”
Andrew Rutens, an attorney representing the city of Bayou la Batre, said the matter could be resolved by the end of the week but wouldn’t comment further because of the nature of the active lawsuit.
According to court documents filed in June, all of the parties agreed to the terms of a settlement during mediation in February. They also requested a joint motion to be entered in court “due to the involvement of third parties” in the case.
The documents state Wilson will receive $91,000 from all four defendants “in consideration of emotional distress.”
During a meeting on May 8, members of the Bayou la Batre City Council approved up to $67,000 to be used in a legal settlement. Following the meeting, Mayor Brett Dungan confirmed the payment was related to the Wilson lawsuit.
At that time, Dungan told Lagniappe the city “probably paid the least” of the parties in the settlement agreement, but said he wasn’t sure what Wright, Hard and Nelson were contributing.
“It’s very complicated because part of the city’s monies are being reimbursed by (Wright),” Dungan said. “There were a lot of moving parts that had to be pinned down.”
At this point it’s unclear how much of the city’s contribution to the settlement may be reimbursed by Wright.
The settlement isn’t finalized, but its tentative terms show the city paying Wilson $40,000 in back pay for March 1, 2013 to March 1, 2014. The city has also agreed to pay Wilson’s Tier 1 RSA obligations for that time period.
The remainder will be awarded to Wilson through the city’s payroll from March 1, 2014 to Nov. 1, 2016, at which point Wilson is scheduled to retire.
He’ll be paid for 40 hours each week at a rate of $12 an hour. Those payments will be subject to all payroll deductions, customary employee taxes and government charges for Social Security and Medicare cumulative. Wilson will also receive a W-2 statement from the city.
“He’s not going back as an employee. It’s like he’s on the payroll, but he’s not actually coming in to work,” Dungan said. “He has two and a half years before he retires and what the city worked out, because of severe cash flow issues, was to pay over the next 32 months.”
In addition to the weekly or bi-weekly payments, Bayou la Batre will pay the employer Tier 1 RSA obligations and provide individual medical insurance coverage to Wilson consistent with the terms and provisions the city pays its other employees.
Dungan said setting up the retirement payments to Wilson caused some of the delay finalizing the suit because of the changing nature of the RSA.
Wilson wouldn’t comment on the details of the settlement because of a confidentiality agreement, but did say he resented comments Dungan made to Lagniappe in May about the lawsuit.
“I do not appreciate being referred to as a nuisance and a cancer, when I stood up and did the right thing,” he said. “Especially when the man that said it would not be in office today to try to move this city forward if I hadn’t.”
Dungan’s original statement called lawsuits stemming from Wright’s administration a “cancer (the city) needed to get rid of,” but Dungan said he wasn’t ever directing that comment at Wilson personally.
“There were four lawsuits I inherited when I took office,” he said. “I’m not saying Darryl did anything wrong, we just inherited a dysfunctional government and we’re trying to get things on the right financial footing.”
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