The city of Richmond has agreed to pay $51,000 in back wages and legal fees to four police officers who served as members of former mayor Dwight C. Jones’ security detail.
The payment ends a lawsuit the men had brought last year alleging that department officials required them to work unpaid overtime guarding Jones amid public scrutiny of the detail’s ballooning cost.
The settlement details were recorded in federal court in Richmond and the case was dismissed this week.
“The plaintiffs are very pleased to amicably resolve their claims against the city,” said Craig Curwood, an employment law attorney who represented the four officers: Charles Battle, Errol Fernandez, Anthony Franklin and Eric Godfrey.
As part of the plea agreement, the men “retract claims made … as they relate to Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham,” who the suit claims instituted a no-overtime policy in May 2015.
Durham noted the retraction in a statement, saying the accusations were “baseless and without merit” and he looks forward to “putting this matter behind us.”
Filed in August, the lawsuit alleged the “RPD and the city each had a hypersensitivity to the perception that overtime paid to (the Executive Protection Unit) was an example of wasteful government spending. However, rather than adequately staff the unit or simply reduce or eliminate coverage to Mayor Jones, RPD decided instead to prohibit payment of overtime earned by EPU members.”
In its response to the suit, the city argued that overtime was reduced because the unit was expanded and that the officers were paid appropriately.
Jones’ security detail was a perennial budget-season punching bag, particularly toward the end of his eight years in office. Its yearly costs varied from $300,000 in 2013 to over $500,000 in 2015, when the alleged moratorium on overtime was instituted as Durham complained of budget constraints and an officer shortage.
In the final year of his term, the City Council voted to limit the detail to a single officer who would accompany Jones only while he was on official city business.
Mayor Levar Stoney, who took office at the beginning of last year, eliminated the detail entirely.