Possible Settlement In Springfield File Shredding Lawsuit
This story aired November 21, 2013.
Multiple well-placed sources with intimate knowledge are telling ABC NewsChannel 20 that the City of Springfield and police blogger Calvin Christian have reached a settlement regarding Christian's lawsuit over the destruction of documents he requested in a Freedom of Information Act request.
Sources say the city has agreed to pay out a little more than $100,000 to Christian and his attorneys. But the agreement does not state the city will have to release names of those involved in the shredding of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's internal affairs file regarding a night of drinking and gun play during a 2008 trip to Missouri.
That is something Christian said was a deal breaker--no names, no deal--when asked by ABC NewsChannel 20's Vince DeMentri in a face-to-face conversation six weeks ago when news of initial settlement talks were leaked.
In an interview with ABC NewsChannel 20 Thursday night, Christian would neither confirm nor deny that a deal has been reached, but he did speak to his apparent reversal on holding the city accountable by naming those involved in the shredding.
"Sometimes you do have to settle," Christian said. "You don't always get what you want with any lawsuit, but I think with all the civil penalties, the attorney's fees, with the price tag over $100,000, I think that would definitely send a strong signal to the city that this kind of conduct cannot continue."
When he filed the lawsuit last May, many doubters criticized Christian as only being interested in collecting a payday, and not really being interested in pressing the city to acknowledge all it knows.
In an interview with ABC NewsChannel 20 Thursday night, Christian was asked if he would keep the money.
"Ah, yeah, I will keep the money," he said.
When asked if the lawsuit was partly about the money, he said, "No, the majority was about the internal affairs records. That's always what it has been about."
Christian's lawsuit was seeking civil penalties of $360,000. His FOIA request and the destruction of Deputy Chief Buscher's IA file led ABC NewsChannel 20 to its nine-week investigation "Ready Set Shred," which shined a light on who was involved, when the destruction of files took place, and the planning behind it. In the wake of our series, Springfield Police Chief Robert Williams suddenly announced his retirement, and head city attorney Mark Cullen abruptly resigned on the same day.
The city of Springfield eventually admitted in court filings that it "intentionally and willfully" destroyed Buscher's IA file, even though it was the subject of a FOIA request. But no names of responsibility were mentioned.
When contacted Thursday night, Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards would not deny or confirm what several well-placed sources tell ABC NewsChannel 20: that a framework for the settlement deal was presented to aldermen during a closed-door executive session on November 19.
When asked how he would vote on a deal that doesn't force the city to name those involved, Edwards said he needed time to think about it.
The deal could be officially presented to city council at their next meeting on November 26.
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