The Hastings City Council has approved a mediated settlement agreement to resolve Hastings Police Officer Cleon Brown’s federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.
In May of 2017, Brown sued the City of Hastings for up to $500,000 alleging fellow officers and the mayor at the time violated his civil rights by making insensitive remarks about African Americans after he learned through an Ancestry.com DNA search that he was 18 percent sub-Saharan African.
In the settlement, Brown was paid $65,000 by the city’s insurance company for emotional distress caused by physical sickness and is payment for any and all claims, damages and attorney fees.
Claims against all of the individuals originally named in the suit, City Manager Jeff Mansfield, Police Chief Jeff Pratt, Deputy Chief Dale Boulter, former Mayor Frank Campbell, Sgt. Kris Miller and Officer Josh Sensiba were dismissed.
Brown will be on paid administrative leave from the police department with full benefits until Oct. 31, or until he finds full-time employment with benefits, whichever comes first. He will resign his position with the city on Oct. 31, or when he gets full-time employment with benefits, whichever comes first, according to the agreement signed July 26.
Brown also agreed not to seek or apply for a position with the City of Hastings at any time in the future.
“This agreement is not an admission of liability by the released parties and is being undertaken solely to avoid the cost and uncertainty of litigation,” the agreement reads.
Brown, who was with the department for 20 years, said after he told the officers he worked with that he was part African American, they taunted him, calling him “Kunta” and saying “Black Lives Matter” when passing him in the hall, causing him humiliation and distress.
In its response, the city alleged that in the past, Brown himself often made derogatory comments about African Americans, joked about his race and brought up the topic to other officers.
“Suffice it to say that the process to resolve these matters is less than perfect, so the outcome of the process is less than ideal,” Mansfield said. “But, the City Council agreed that entering into this mediated settlement agreement would allow the City to focus its efforts and resources on more productive endeavors in the days ahead.”
Photo: Hastings Police Officer Cleon Brown, shown in a file photo.