Woman settles discrimination lawsuit with Butler County

Friday, February 20, 2009

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — A Poplar Bluff woman has received a $125,000 settlement resulting from her discriminatory employment practices lawsuit against Sheriff Mark Dobbs, the Butler County commissioners and Butler County.

The settlement was reached before the case went to trial in U.S. District Court at Cape Girardeau.

Brandi Smith was a dispatcher in the Butler County Sheriff's Department. She began work with the county May 15, 2005, and was fired by the sheriff May 17, 2007.

In February, Smith filed a lawsuit alleging Dobbs "engaged in unlawful or discriminatory employment practices" when he discharged her. She filed the claims for damages under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Missouri Human Rights Act and other federal and state laws.

Ed Strenfel, who became the presiding commissioner Jan. 1, 2007, said the county's liability insurance carrier, Savers Property & Casualty Insurance Co., will cover $115,000 of the settlement. The insurance also paid $941.30 to Smith's attorneys for reimbursement of costs and $2,045.31 to Stanley Grimm for mediation costs.

"The county will have to pay $10,000, which is the deductible," Strenfel said.

Dan Moore of the Moore, Walsh & Albright law firm in Poplar Bluff represented Smith. The defendants and the insurance company were represented by attorney Keith Henson of St. Louis.

Dobbs, the commissioners and the county denied they are, individually or collectively, liable to the plaintiff.

Smith and the defendants agreed that nothing in a general release document she signed "constitutes an admission by defendants with respect to the claims of the plaintiff, or of liability with respect to any matter referred to herein." Smith acknowledged the release is being entered into solely as a compromise to prevent further expense, and to terminate all litigation.

She also acknowledged the defendants are paying the settlement as compensation for nonwage damages within the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code, and not as back pay, front pay or as wages, and specifically for her alleged claims for personal injuries.

Each party must bear their own costs and attorney fees, according to an order of dismissal signed Feb. 10 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Lewis M. Blanton. In her motion to dismiss the suit, Smith said she is dismissing the action with prejudice.

The case was originally filed in Butler County Circuit Court, but was transferred to U.S. District Court on March 5, 2008, at the request of the defendants.

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