GILMER — Four lawsuits that were pending against the city of East Mountain were dismissed Monday as settlement agreements were reached that included the resignations of elected and appointed officials.
Attorney Andrew Korn, who represented Ken Miller, Gary Bellis and Lester Glover in their lawsuits against the city, as well as Doug Ritcheson, who represented the city, mutually agreed to the settlement and dismissals. The settlements were approved by visiting Judge Paul Banner.
The three plaintiffs had been suing the city primarily over denied requests for public records. Bellis’ lawsuit also argued allowing Betty Davis — who resigned early this month — to hold the dual positions of police chief and city administrator violated the Texas Constitution. The city has denied the allegations.
“I’m so happy you’ve got this resolved but I’m also disappointed because I don’t think I’ve ever done an open records case,” said Banner, who served as judge in the cases after Upshur County Judge Dean Fowler recused himself.
Ritcheson and Korn declined to comment after the hearing. Miller also declined to comment on the outcome.
Terms of Monday’s settlement include that the city must pay $58,000 to the plaintiffs and their attorney, it must comply with the open records requests noted in the lawsuits and requires Davis and Mayor Neal Coulter resign. Both did so March 2, according to resignation letters obtained last week by the News-Journal.
According to the settlement agreement, the city was required to pay $10,000 last Thursday and was to pay the remaining balance of the settlement in $6,000 installments over an eight-month period that begins April 1. The order of dismissal was not entered until after the city made the first $10,000 payment last week.
The City Council had a special meeting Thursday, according to an agenda posted at City Hall, to sign the settlement agreement.
It called for the dismissal of all pending cases and noted that Miller is not allowed to refile a lawsuit for the same public records he was seeking in the case. According to Miller’s lawsuit, he had sought public records pertaining to a cell phone Davis used. According to allegations in the suit, the city paid a portion of Davis’ cell phone bill and the Attorney General’s Office had ruled that because of those payments, it must turn over the records. Miller claimed he never received the records.
According to the agreement, the city must comply with that open records request by providing copies of Davis’s cellphone records to Miller by March 23. The records are to contain all available texts, pictures and video.
It was not immediately clear why the records were requested; however, a message previously provided to the News-Journal showed Davis sent a text message stating that whenever she sees Miller she has “thoughts of how to make a justifiable homicide defense.” She was still serving as police chief at the time she sent the text. The cellphone number from which the text was sent was confirmed in the settlement agreement as belonging to Davis.
Emails, financial records
The city also must comply with other records requests noted in the lawsuit. According to the settlement, the city by last Thursday was to deliver copies of its bank statements, including canceled checks, as well as some other documents.
The city is required to preserve and restore emails from Betty Davis’, Terry Davis’ and Mark Nichols’ email addresses with the city. Terry Davis is Betty Davis’ ex-husband. He was hired by Betty Davis as an East Mountain police officer. He served until the couple divorced, then she terminated his employment.
The city also was required to accept the resignations of Davis and Coulter from their capacities as police chief and mayor. Davis and Coulter submitted their resignations March 2. Davis earlier had resigned from the city administrator position.
Prior to hearing the settlement agreement and motion to dismiss, Banner denied a motion that had been filed by Davis and her attorney, Robert Davis.
The March 2 motion sought to quash a subpoena for Davis to be deposed. It also requested that Davis produce copies of her resume and cover letter sent to places of employment.
Attorney Robert Davis argued in the motion that the “documents are being sought for harassment purposes only.”
On Monday, attorney Robin O’Donoghue, who works at the same law firm as Robert Davis, continued to argue that point. However, Banner denied the motion and required Davis to turn over her resume and cover letter. He allowed the resume and cover letter to be redacted so identifying information about Davis, such as her Social Security number, would not be revealed.
According to Davis’ resume, she completed a basic peace office course at the East Texas Police Academy then earned a bachelor’s degree at LeTourneau University. She went on to Sam Houston State University where she earned a master of science degree in criminal justice leadership and management. She began work as a patrol officer in 2009 in East Mountain and assumed the police chief position in 2013, along with the city administrator position. Prior to coming to East Mountain, she had worked as a patrol officer in Gladewater and a reserve patrol deputy for the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office.
A cover letter dated Feb. 10 shows she has applied at East Texas Baptist University for a full-time faculty position teaching in the Criminal Justice department.