Aldermen begrudgingly OK $3.8M settlement with cop
Chicago aldermen on Thursday begrudgingly agreed to pay $3.8 million to a veteran police officer who was transferred to a midnight shift patrolling what she called an “unsafe neighborhood” after reporting that a fellow officer had “verbally and physically threatened her at work.”
Indicted Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) was incredulous after First Deputy Corporation Counsel Renai Rodney confirmed during a Finance Committee meeting what Kubiak’s attorney told the Sun-Times — that the code-of-silence case could have been settled seven years ago “at no cost to the taxpayers,” simply by putting Kubiak back on the job at News Affairs.
“I don’t know why the request was denied, but it was denied,” Rodney told aldermen who signed off on the settlement, one of four stemming from allegations of police abuse, two of them police shootings.
Instead, the city’s law department chose to take the case to a trial that culminated in last year’s jury decision to award Kubiak $1.4 million in damages for emotional distress and $400,000 in lost wages.
“Somebody has to take responsibility for costing the taxpayers four million bucks in a case that could have been resolved. … Some of us would like to know who is responsible,” Burke told Rodney.
“You’re left to clean up somebody else’s mess. What you said was there’s nobody in the law department who was involved in these decisions left. … But clearly, this wasn’t a decision made by the law department. Somebody in the police department had to have told the law department they wanted to go [to trial] with this case. Do we know who that was?”
Rodney said she has no idea, in part, because Kubiak’s complaint “began administratively” before proceeding to federal court, then on to state court after city attorneys got the federal lawsuit dismissed.
Burke was not appeased, particularly not after being told that Veejay Zala, the officer accused of threatening Kubiak, has since retired after serving a one-day suspension.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, in that, there’s no one left to really take responsibility for this mess. It’s too bad,” Burke said.
“He’s retired. There’s nobody in the law department that’s taken responsibility. There’s nobody in the police department that’s taken responsibility. And we’re now asked to vote to fund $4 million of the taxpayers’ money to make this go away.”
“That’s certainly one way to view it, yes,” Rodney said.
Burke countered: “Well, tell me if there’s another way to view it.”
Rodney replied: “We have a jury award that we must pay. We thought it was best to reduce the amount of additional exposure to an even larger attorney fee petition, which could exceed $2 million. So, the proposed settlement of $3.8 million results in savings of about $700,000 from the ultimate exposure if we were to fight the petition and let the court decide.”
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) called the Kubiak case a “cautionary tale for all of us.”