Town pays $86,000 to former Bluffton police lieutenant in wrongful-termination suit

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Town pays $86,000 to former Bluffton police lieutenant in wrongful-termination suit


By CASSIE FOSS
cfoss@islandpacket.com
843-706-8125
Published Thursday, August 4, 2011   |  550 Words  |  

A former Bluffton police lieutenant who says she was unfairly demoted and laid off was paid $86,000 to settle her wrongful-termination lawsuit, the town's attorney said Thursday.

The S.C. Insurance Reserve Fund paid the town's attorney fees, plus the settlement amount to Katherine Sours, 54, according to an email from town attorney Terry Finger.

The settlement was reached May 26 during a four-hour mediation in Charleston.

The town and Sours confirmed the settlement last month but refused The Island Packet's request to divulge the dollar amount, citing a confidentiality agreement between them.

However, the settlement amount was provided Thursday in an email from Finger, who also said the town "paid the Insurance Reserve Fund the sum of $15,000 in connection with this litigation." Attempts Thursday to reach Finger by email and phone for further explanation were unsuccessful.

The state Freedom of Information Act requires that information about a public body's receipt or expenditure of money be made public. And the attorney general, in a 2007 advisory opinion involving a lawsuit settlement between the Beaufort County School District and former principal Laverne Davis, said that a settlement agreement is a public record subject to disclosure under the law.

The state Supreme Court also has ruled that "under no circumstances shall a court approve sealing a settlement agreement which involves a public body or institution."

Sours, who joined the force in 2006, was demoted from a supervisory position to a patrol job in February 2009, then laid off the following June, according to the lawsuit.

Her demotion came a month before the department received national accreditation, an effort Sours led, her suit said.

In the wrongful-termination suit, filed five months after her layoff, Sours alleged that Police Chief David McAllister demoted her in retaliation for her complaints about his "inappropriate and unprofessional conduct," then fired her because he feared she would report him for favoritism and a lack of professionalism.

Sours said Thursday she felt the amount was fair and comparable to similar civil settlements in the region.

"I'm happy that they recognize I was owed something for what I've been through. This doesn't make me whole, but it's a start," she said.

Attempts Thursday to reach McAllister for comment were unsuccessful.

Sours also has filed an age-discrimination complaint with the S.C. Human Affairs Commission and with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in which she alleges McAllister made comments about her age on numerous occasions.

Those cases are pending, Sours said.

Follow reporter Cassie Foss at twitter.com/LCBlotter.

Related content

  1. Settlement reached in Bluffton wrongful termination suit; town keeps amount secret, July 19, 2011
  2. Bluffton denies claims made in lawsuit filed by former police lieutenant, March 2, 2010
  3. Former Bluffton police files age discrimination complaint, Dec. 3, 2009