John Vest, a former Fayette County Detention Center officer who had alerted the FBI to abuse of prisoners at the jail and later was fired from his job, has reached an out-of-court settlement with the local government for $575,000.
Vest had filed lawsuits in Fayette and Jessamine counties, claiming that he was retaliated against when it became known that he was a whistle blower and that he was fired in violation of due process rights.
"This settles all costs related to three separate lawsuits involving two other mayors," Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, said on Friday. "The Gray administration inherited this lawsuit. We now have new leadership at the jail. Ray Sabbatine, the new interim director, is off to a strong start. The jail is, of course, vitally important to the safety of our community."
The settlement came last month, just before Vest's whistle-blower case was to go to trial in Jessamine County.
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Vest's attorney, William Jacobs, said his client is "extremely satisfied" with the settlement. "I'm delighted because he is," Jacobs said.
Five former detention center officers were charged with abusing prisoners after an investigation by the FBI. Former sergeants John McQueen and Anthony Estep, former corporals Clarence McCoy and Scott Tyree, and former lieutenant Kristine LaFoe were accused of beating prisoners and writing false reports in an attempt to cover up the abuse. All were convicted and sent to prison.
The abuse occurred in 2006, when Theresa Isaac was Lexington's mayor.
Vest announced at a 2006 news conference that he had been working with the FBI to uncover the abuse at the jail. He went public at the direction of the FBI, according to his attorney. Vest was running for Jessamine County jailer at the time. He lost the race.
After Vest's role as a whistle blower became public, he maintained that his safety at work became an issue. Jacobs said jail officials wanted to put Vest in the jail's custody section, where he had no protection from fellow guards.
"He wasn't afraid of the prisoners; he was afraid of the guards," Jacobs said.
Vest stopped reporting to work after Sept. 29, 2006, shortly before he announced that he was a whistle blower. Charges related to his absence were brought against him in 2007. He was fired for insubordination and inefficiency in September 2010.
Except for accrued vacation time in 2006, Vest was not paid during his four-year absence from his job at the jail.
"He did want to go back to work. He tried to go back," Jacobs said. "They wouldn't put him in a safe place."
Vest was not given a required pre-termination hearing by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government before the charges were brought against him, Jacobs said in an earlier interview. He said that was a violation of Vest's due process rights.