SOMERSET — Six Somerset police officers each will get a $2,000 raise to settle a lawsuit in which they charged that Mayor Eddie Girdler retaliated against them for supporting his opponent.
The city's insurance company also will pay the officers' attorneys $85,000, according to a summary of the settlement provided by Carrie Dixon Wiese, the city attorney.
The officers' attorneys could share a portion of that with them, Wiese said.
The trial in the case was scheduled to start Tuesday, but attorneys for the officers, Girdler and the city negotiated the settlement last week.
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The agreement ended a lawsuit that has caused a good deal of interest in town, in part because it made public the news that federal authorities have investigated Girdler during his term as mayor.
A motion in the lawsuit said authorities looked into the "political rewards system" that Girdler put in place after winning election in 2006.
Girdler has said he has done nothing wrong. He has not been charged.
Girdler, former head of the city housing authority, won the mayoral race by a narrow margin in November 2006 over incumbent J.P. Wiles.
Soon after, Girdler said he planned to punish officers who worked against him in the election and reward others who had helped him, according to a sworn statement from David Biggerstaff, who was the police chief at the time.
Biggerstaff said he quit rather than allow that to happen on his watch.
The officers claimed that Girdler and officers close to him retaliated against them in a variety of ways, including disbanding an emergency response team; demoting one from acting police chief and forcing another to step down as assistant chief; failing to promote them; moving an office used by some of them into a janitorial closet; and subjecting them to extra scrutiny and the threat of being fired.
Girdler denied retaliating against the officers.
U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves had dismissed several of the officers' claims, but he let stand the claim that Girdler violated their First Amendment rights by retaliating against them for supporting Wiles while off duty.
In addition to the financial settlement, the city agreed to return one officer to administrative duty on the day shift and remove a reprimand letter from another's personnel file.
If any of the six officers chooses to retire in the next year, he will get a $5,000 pay increase, according to the settlement. That would increase his pension.
The settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by Girdler or the city, Wiese said in a memo to city council members.