County jail set­tle­ments top $1M

Tax­pay­ers spend­ing too much, Mont­gomery County of­fi­cial says.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Ste­wart and Josh Sweigart Staff Writ­ers

The amount of tax­payer money spent de­fend­ing and set­tling a spate of law­suits against the Mont­gomery County Jail soared above a mil­lion dol­lars Tues­day when county com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved a $380,000 pay­out to Emily Evans.

Evans, then 27, was brought to the jail in 2014 on a drunk driv­ing charge. The law­suit claimed Evans was threat­ened by a deputy who had a Taser pointed at her and was then slammed to the floor by a sergeant, caus­ing fa­cial frac­tures.

Evans is the fourth for­mer in­mate in the last four months

and the sec­ond within two weeks to re­ceive a set­tle­ment over al­leged mis­treat­ment in the jail. The set­tle­ments alone have cost the county $888,000. An ad­di­tional $444,000 has been spent on out­side le­gal coun­sel and lit­i­ga­tion costs, ac­cord­ing to county records. Six law­suits against the jail are pend­ing.

“We have to end up with sig­nif­i­cantly fewer law­suits be­cause tax­pay­ers are pay­ing a lot of money – too much money – to re­solve th­ese cases,” said Mont­gomery County Com­mis­sion Pres- ident Dan Fo­ley.

Maj. Matt Haines, who com­mands the jail, said Tues­day there have been no pol­icy changes identi- fied in the wake of the set- tled law­suits in­clud­ing those brought by Amber Swink, Mar­sha Pate-Strick­land and Dar­ryl Wal­lace, whose case was set­tled last week.

“In three of the law­suits that re­sulted in a set­tle- ment em­ploy­ees were held ac­count­able and re­ceived dis­ci­pline for vi­o­lat­ing poli­cies that were al­ready in force at the time of the in­ci­dent and our in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fourth is still pend- ing due to an open crim­i­nal case,” Haines said.

Crit­i­cal work is un­der­way by the Jus­tice Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for the Mont­gomery County Jail, Fo­ley said. Formed in March, the com­mit­tee will ul­ti­mately pro­vide a re­port to com­mis­sion­ers that will iden­tify best prac­tices around pro­gram­ming, staffing lev­els, train- ing, poli­cies and pro­ce­dures, as well as “bricks and mor­tar in­vest­ments” the county needs to make in the fa­cil­ity which saw its last ma­jor ren­o­va­tion in 1994.

“We have one jail in this com­mu­nity and we don’t have a backup op­tion,” he said. “So it’s in­cum­bent on us to make sure that the jail is the safest jail it can be for the com­mu­nity.”

Fo­ley said the com­mit­tee is close to hir­ing a pro­fes­sional jail con­sul­tant to help as­sem­ble the re­port.

Rabbi Bernard Barsky, a co-chair­man of the com­mit- tee, said the group isn’t look­ing at spe­cific al­le­ga­tions in the suits but in­stead on the broader un­der­ly­ing is­sues such as over­crowd­ing, med­i­cal and men­tal health ser- vices, and staffing.

“The sit­u­a­tions at the jail are a re­sult of the re­al­ity of life in the jail: the fact that it’s over­crowded, the fact the jail staff is over­bur­dened,” he said. “That’ll cer­tainly en­com­pass what­ever is­sues led to those law­suits.”

In the Evans law­suit, one corrections of­fi­cer was dis­ci­plined for us­ing the laser aim­ing sys­tem on his Taser in­ap­pro­pri­ately. The of­fi­cer who Evans ac­cused of “slam- ming” her to the ground, how­ever, was not found to have vi­o­lated any pol­icy.

“An in­de­pen­dent use of force ex­pert re­viewed the Evans case and video and found that no force was used and that Evans pro­pelled her­self onto the ground,” Haines said.

Evans’ at­tor­ney, L. Michael Bly did not im­me­di­ately re­turn calls seek­ing com­ment.

The corrections of­fi­cer in the Pate-Strick­land case was given a let­ter of cau­tion for fail­ing to no­tify a su­per- visor of an es­ca­lat­ing situ- ation, re­sult­ing in a use of force that “coult have been avoided,” the let­ter says.

The corrections of­fi­cer in the Wal­lace case was dis­ci­plined and re­ferred for pos- sible crim­i­nal charges, which was de­nied by county and city pros­e­cu­tors.

Capt. Judith Sealey, whose pep­per-spray­ing of Swink in a re­straint chair led to the Swink suit, is still fac­ing pos­si­ble prose­cu­tion. Mont­gom- ery County pros­e­cu­tors say there is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence for felony charges. Day­ton city pros­e­cu­tors asked Cincin­nati city pros­e­cu­tors to re­view the case for possi- ble mis­de­meanor charges.

Sealey was charged with as­sault on Nov. 8 in Day­ton Mu­nic­i­pal Court, her at­tor­ney An­thony VanNoy said Tues­day, and pleaded not guilty.

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