GREEN BAY – A police officer who was harassed and bullied by some of her fellow officers will receive $200,000 from the city to settle her claim that the behavior violated her civil rights.
The settlement might be the largest Green Bay has ever paid to a current or former employee, city officials said.
It also will likely mean the police department has to delay hiring two officers, Chief Andrew Smith said.
He said, however, that paying the settlement to Stephanie Dantoin — and asking that the payment come from the department’s budget as opposed to
the general fund or an account established to pay legal claims — “is the right thing to do.
Settlement papers signed on Feb. 27 say the parties intended to keep details of the agreement from the public eye unless they were required by law to reveal them. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin obtained the agreement two weeks after filing an Open Records Law request.
Dantoin, 28, will also receive city-paid health-insurance coverage for the next year, and a letter of recommendation signed by Smith, the agreement states. The Green Bay resident was an officer in good standing when she voluntarily resigned from the department effective March 2, saying in her letter she appreciated the chance to serve the Green Bay community.
In exchange, Dantoin has withdrawn a discrimination claim she filed with the state’s Equal Rights Division in July.
The city’s police, human resources and legal departments signed off on the settlement. The matter does not require approval from City Council or the Police and Fire Commission, officials said.
Dantoin, a patrol officer since January 2015, will receive $134,000. The remainder will go to her attorneys, Gingras, Cates & Wachs.
A four-sentence letter of recommendation from Smith tells potential future employers the officer’s resignation was not related to concerns about her job performance.
“Officer Dantoin showed herself to have high integrity,” his letter states. “She excelled at all aspects of training in which she participated, and was a valuable member of the force during her time on patrol.”Dantoin is the third officer to leave the department because of the harassment case, but the first victim to leave. A lieutenant and a patrol officer resigned last year after they became the primary targets of an internal investigation.
RELATED:Green Bay officials said they couldn’t recall the city having paid an amount this large to settle an employment dispute.
“We are not aware if the city has previously issued a payment in this amount to a current or former employee,” Joanne Bungert, and attorney for the city, said via email.
Smith said he is aware of the department paying a $10,000 settlement in the past, but nothing close to $200,000.
Bungert said the city is working to determine if its insurance carrier can pay some or all of the settlement. If it can’t, the money will come from the police department’s budget.
If the department must pay the full cost of the settlement, it will have to delay bringing two new officers on board, Smith said.
“I want that to come out of the police department’s budget; it’s not fair to
punish another part of the city,” he said Wednesday. “We as a department have to have some skin in the game.”
The department is budgeted to have 194 sworn officers, but is rarely at full strength because of a lag between the time an officer retires and when a replacement can be hired and trained. Smith said about eight positions are now vacant.
‘I wish I could say it’s over’
Police officials say they hope the resignation will be the end of more than a year of problems that saw the department conducting multiple investigations into its own officers.
The harassment probe began in late 2016 when Smith demanded the resignations of a lieutenant and a patrolman who he believed were the ringleaders of a group of night-shift officers who harassed and bullied Dantoin, an African-American officer and some other colleagues.
As many as nine officers took part in the harassment; as many as eight were victims. The harassers have been disciplined, but one supervisor has challenged a disciplinary action against him, Smith said.”I wish I could say it’s over and done and we can put it all behind us,” he said. “I didn’t come here to make friends … I came here to do a job and make this the best police department I possibly can. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Officers received unpaid suspensions ranging from one to 30 days, and two were barred from serving as field-training officers for a year.
Read the article(s) and give me your thoughts on the Police Chief and his leadership style. Do you think he is going overboard in his disciplinary approach? Focus on the Dantoin case (but you can consider the other cases from a perspective of a culture in the agency) What do you think he is doing the right or wrong? Would you do anything different? Explain your thoughts?