KeyPoint suit to be dropped
City to pay $12,000 to group that sought report on shooting
Austin city officials plan to pay about $12,000 in legal fees to a civil rights group in exchange for the organization withdrawing a lawsuit that sought the results of an outside review into a fatal police shooting.
A judge has not signed off on the agreement between the city and the Texas Civil Rights Project, but officials said they expect to resolve the matter in coming days.
Project Director Jim Harrington said the group decided to drop the suit, filed in April, after city officials released the report by KeyPoint Government Solutions in May and agreed to pay the fees.
City leaders had said for nearly eight months that a full copy of the report, which reviewed the actions of senior police officer Leonardo Quintana in the fatal shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II in May 2009, was confidential.
They changed that stance after an American-Statesman story that showed the city had
released a similar report in 2004.
“We got what we wanted, and the report is out,” Harrington said. “There is nothing more to litigate.”
He said state law allowed the civil rights project to seek the legal fees, which the court set based on the number of hours lawyers and clerks spent on the case.
City spokesman Reyne Telles said Wednesday that officials chose to “move on from this issue” and have “elected to have the case resolved in such a manner.”
“We will be paying the attorneys’ fees in order to close the case,” Telles said.
The action did not meet the financial threshold that would have required City Council approval.
Officials have said that Quintana fatally shot Sanders during a struggle for a gun in an apartment complex parking lot. Quintana was suspended for 15 days for failing to activate his patrol car camera but was not disciplined for his tactics or use of deadly force. He was fired from the force in May after a drunken driving arrest this year.
Last year, city officials hired KeyPoint to review the shooting but released only a heavily redacted copy of its report.
Officials cited state law, which said that only information relating to allegations for which Quintana was disciplined could be made public.
They later clarified a contract with the police union and released the report.
City Attorney David Smith, whose legal department had said that the report was confidential, retired from the city in May and took responsibility for the handling of the report’s release.
Council Member Chris Riley said Wednesday that he thinks the city’s payment of attorney fees to the civil rights project is appropriate.
“I wish that we had found a way to release (the report) sooner, and I think that the city bears some responsibility for the fact that it wasn’t released sooner,” he said.
Council Member Sheryl Cole said she considers the city’s agreement to cover the project’s legal fees “a down payment on moving forward in a positive direction with Harrington and his organization to address the complex social issues facing our community.”