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Hallsville reaches settlement with three ex-police officers

By Mike Elswick melswick@news-journal.com
March 14, 2012 at 11 p.m.

The city of Hallsville has reached a settlement with three police officers who were hired then quickly found themselves out of work as a disagreement played out between the town's mayor and City Council.

Jose Sanchez, the Longview attorney representing the officers, said Mayor Jerri Medrano signed the settlement agreements Tuesday.

"This is great news for both sides because instead of going to the courtroom to get things resolved, everyone can now move on," Sanchez said.

The settlement will provide four months' pay to Lukas Reynolds, who had served as the replacement police chief, Sanchez said. Officers Shane Guthrie and Robert Perkins will receive two months' pay each. The city also agreed to pay $2,500 in attorney's fees.

Reached Wednesday, Hallsville City Attorney Joshua Searcy declined to confirm a settlement had been reached. Medrano could not be reached for comment. Early last month, she had suggested a deal would be made within weeks.

The settlement package stems from Medrano's unilateral late December firing - for what she has only defined as policy violations - of Hallsville Police Chief Greg Scott, Sgt. Mack Fuller and officer T.C. Livingston. The move left Hallsville with one officer on duty, but he resigned during his shift after the others were fired.

After the Dec. 28 firings, the city hired Reynolds as chief and brought on Guthrie as sergeant and Perkins and Paul Montoya as officers. Montoya remains on the Hallsville force.

But in the days after the firings and replacement hirings, residents began petitioning and rallying for the terminated officers to be reinstated. After a boisterous Jan. 17 City Council meeting, the three were given their jobs back on a 3-2 vote.

That left three replacement officers out of work. Sanchez said his clients had given up other jobs to take the positions in Hallsville, and ended up being in financial and professional limbo when the dust settled.

In addition to the severance packages, Sanchez said each officer received letters of recommendation clarifying they were in no way involved in the firing of the other officers in late December.

"Basically, they were let go due to reduction in force when the other officers were rehired," Sanchez said.

He said the city and its attorney worked in good faith toward reaching the settlement.

If a deal had not been reached, Sanchez said, a lawsuit against the city would have been the officers' last resort.



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