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Newberg City Council approves up to $50K settlement with Casey in Betz case

Police chief seeks damages after being put on temporary administrative leave by embattled former city manager

Newberg-Dundee Police Chief Brian Casey will receive up to $50,000 in a settlement payment from the city of Newberg, resolving a claim he made against the city stemming from controversy that erupted last summer.

Attorney Demetri Tsohantaridis filed a tort claim notice on behalf of Casey in January. A tort claim is a lawsuit alleging a civil wrong was committed against an individual.Casey

The tort claim notice provided to the city indicates that “the claim for damages arises out of an incident which occurred on or about July 15, 2015, in Newberg Oregon, in which Chief Casey was wrongly placed on administrative leave from his role as chief of the Newberg-Dundee Police Department.”

Tsohantaridis declined to comment on the tort claim.

Former City Manager Jacque Betz called Casey into her office on July 15 and informed him he would be placed on administrative leave effective immediately. An assessment of the police department would be conducted in his absence, she explained.

As is standard for administrative leave, Casey was barred from city property and stripped of his badge and service weapon for the duration of the leave.

Two days into his leave, though, the situation became public on a Friday afternoon and widespread media scrutiny descended upon Newberg. The lack of information as to why Betz had removed Casey fueled speculation on all sorts of scenarios, and when the media attention took off Casey emailed the city urging officials to “put a stop to the rumors that are a product of the city putting me on administrative leave. This conveys to everyone that the city has reason to believe that I have committed a crime or serious misconduct …”

In the days after Casey was placed on leave, NDPD captains collected information from officers suggesting Betz had wrongfully removed Casey, and the controversy deepened over the weekend when it was announced Betz would be investigated by the Yamhill County district attorney’s office.

The City Council temporarily removed Betz from her position while that investigation got underway, leaving the city with neither a police chief nor a city manager. Over the following three weeks information was released alternately suggesting wrongdoing by Betz or by Casey and the police department.

Days after Betz was removed, former city attorney Terry Mahr was appointed as temporary city manager and he immediately reinstated Casey as police chief. Casey’s leave lasted about 10 days.

A report surfaced listing the reasons Betz had ordered an assessment of the NDPD, including allegations of wrongdoing by officers in the department as well as by Casey.

The district attorney’s investigation into Betz found she had committed no criminal offenses in removing Casey.

But when a report by NDPD captains Jeff Kosmicki and Chris Bolek became public, things took another turn. It contained allegations by unnamed officers that Betz was romantically involved with a police officer and that she removed Casey to prevent that from becoming public. It also alleged she received information through that relationship that contributed to her actions toward Casey.

Even though the district attorney’s office had determined nothing criminal took place, the accusations in that report led Mayor Bob Andrews to recommend a full investigation into what took place. He planned to recommend Betz remain on leave indefinitely during that investigation.

That inquiry was halted when Betz resigned Aug. 17. The city negotiated a settlement with Betz’s attorney for a sum of nearly $97,000, two thirds of which would be paid by the city. Newberg’s insurance provider picked up the remainder of the tab.

During the fall, the assessment of the police department concluded and determined that while there was room for improvement, neither Casey nor any of the officers were guilty of any wrongdoing.

The tort claim filed in January was submitted just a few days before the 180-day window required for such claims would have ended.

Casey’s $50,000 settlement is slightly over half the amount Betz received when she resigned her post. The settlement money paid by the city will bar any future claims or lawsuits over the issue, City Manager Pro Tem Steve Rhodes said.

Casey declined to comment, stating that the settlement is still in progress and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.

Councilors came out of a half-hour executive session closed to the public on March 7 and voted unanimously to authorize the settlement with no open meeting discussion.

While there is documentation indicating the damages the settlement will cover, City Attorney Truman Stone said that information is exempt from public disclosure since litigation is still pending. Once the settlement is finalized it may be releasable, he added, though some information would likely be redacted. It is likely Casey incurred legal fees during the episode, as Portland attorney Akin Blitz represented him throughout the saga.

Andrews declined to comment on the settlement, citing its confidentiality.

Council President Denise Bacon did not discuss specifics but said it was an opportunity for closure on the situation.

“It’s time to close the chapter on this and do the right thing so we can all move on,” she said.