Attorneys for the city of Mendota Heights and the widow of slain police officer Scott Patrick announced Tuesday they had reached a settlement in a whistleblower lawsuit Patrick filed months before he died.
The settlement came after "a voluntary mediation" with a mutually selected mediator. On behalf of Mendota Heights, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust will pay $28,786.40 to Michelle Patrick and $21,213.60 to her attorneys.
"Rather than engage in protracted litigation, the city and Ms. Patrick agreed it is in their best interests to resolve the dispute," the parties said in a joint statement.
Scott Patrick filed the lawsuit against the city and Police Chief Michael Aschenbrener months before he was killed in the line of duty in 2014, alleging retaliation for reporting two officers he thought stole a picnic bench.
Brian Fitch Sr., 40, shot and killed Patrick during a July 30, 2014, traffic stop. Fitch is now serving life in prison.
A Dakota County judge in April granted Michelle Patrick's motion to substitute for her husband in the lawsuit and a jury trial was set for July 27. But before the suit could go to trial, the parties announced they would pursue mediation.
"She thought Scott would have wanted her to continue his lawsuit, and that's what she did," said Matt Morgan, Michelle Patrick's attorney.
Jana O'Leary Sullivan, attorney for Mendota Heights, said Aschenbrener was dismissed from the lawsuit as part of the settlement. The city continues to maintain that the lawsuit's claims had no merit and denies any wrongdoing or legal liability, she said.
The joint statement released Tuesday said the city and Michelle Patrick would continue working together to commemorate Scott Patrick. "This may include flying the American flag at half-staff outside City Hall on July 30th of each year; having a moment of silence at the time of his death; and displaying a painting of him," the statement said.
An area of Dodd Road, which Patrick often patrolled, was dedicated "Officer Scott Patrick Memorial Highway" on the anniversary of his death this year.
Morgan said the memorial efforts are more important than the financial damages that were part of the settlement. Those efforts will include a memorial committee, which will include Michelle Patrick, City Council members and police officers.
Scott Patrick's original complaint, filed in February 2014, accused Aschenbrener of retaliating against him for reporting a theft by two other officers in 2008.
Patrick also alleged that the department failed to provide adequate written notice regarding the nature of an internal affairs investigation before a 2012 disciplinary hearing.
Michelle Patrick sought $75,000 for a violation of the Minnesota Peace Officer Discipline Procedures Act and $75,000 for unlawful retaliation under the state whistleblower act because her husband potentially incurred medical expenses for emotional distress. She said in May that she was more interested in exposing departmental practices than seeking monetary damages.
On Tuesday, O'Leary Sullivan said the settlement reflected a desire to resolve the dispute and "focus on the important work of commemorating Officer Patrick."
"The city — and perhaps both parties — recognized the emotionally and logistically difficult task of continuing a lawsuit brought by an officer killed in the line of duty," she said.