A Bluffton police officer who claimed he was unfairly suspended, demoted and forced to take a pay cut in retaliation for complaints against the former police chief will has settled with the town.
Christian Gonzales will get back pay and be reinstated to his former rank, according to the settlement agreement.
The town of Bluffton recently released the terms of an April 26 agreement in response to a public-records request from The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.
In his suit, Gonzales claimed he was suspended for a week, demoted from senior sergeant to officer and given a 5-percent pay cut after he alleged to Barrett that McAllister treated him unfairly.
The agreement says Gonzales will be reinstated as a senior sergeant -- now referred to as a master police sergeant -- and will be paid the difference between the salary he drew after his Sept. 14, 2011, demotion and what he would have earned had his rank remained unchanged.
The town has agreed to pay Gonzales the salary he would have received during a one-week suspension that also began on Sept. 14, 2011 -- a punishment imposed on Gonzales after a town investigation found that his complaints against McAllister were unfounded -- as well as the difference between the average bonus and the bonuses Gonzales received.
The agreement, which includes a clause prohibiting either party from making disparaging comments about the other, does not give the exact amount Gonzales will receive.
Barrett said in an email Monday that the pay difference Gonzales will receive is about $6,300 and the bonus difference about $490. Barrett also said he is "pleased to have this behind us and look to many improvements in our police department."
Gonzales' attorney, Nancy Bloodgood of Charleston, declined to release the amount or comment further. Bloodgood has represented Bluffton police officers who filed suit against the town before, including former Bluffton police Lt. Katherine Sours, who won $236,000 in two settlements when she claimed her age was a factor in her 2009 termination.
The town also will pay $35,000 to cover Gonzales' legal costs and fees, according to the agreement.
All references to the issues that prompted the lawsuit will be removed from Gonzales' employment file.
Gonzales' lawsuit said McAllister retaliated against him after he asked to be transferred so that he did not have report to a particular officer. That officer, Gonzales asserted, was a "favorite" of McAllister.
The suit also claimed McAllister once shoved Gonzales and attempted to embarrass him in front of subordinates on several occasions.
Gonzales took his complaints to Barrett in 2011. His suit claims that Barrett launched an investigation that focused only on the shoving accusation and resulted in the week-long suspension, demotion and pay cut.
In a press release issued last year in response to Gonzales' suit, Barrett said an investigation that included interviews with 10 witnesses found McAllister did not shove the officer, a finding later upheld by a grievance panel selected in accordance with town policy.
The town, Barrett and McAllister have denied Gonzales' claims. The agreement states that both parties "acknowledge that this settlement is a (compromise) of disputed and contested claims and that payment of the settlement amount is being made to avoid further litigation."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.
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- Former Bluffton police officer settles age-discrimination suit for $150K, May 30, 2012
- Bluffton police chief announces resignation; private-sector job in Atlanta awaits, May 29, 2012