City of Casper Refuses to Release Settlement Terms of Fatal Cop Shooting
The City of Casper and Wyoming Association of Risk Management have filed a lawsuit against the Casper Star Tribune and other defendants to restrict disclosure of a confidential settlement agreement.
On Aug. 11 a reporter named Sofia Saric wrote an email to Charlotte Martinez, public records ombudsman for the state of Wyoming.
Saric requested an appeal for a records request denial from the city of Casper and the Wyoming Association of Risk Management.
This was a highly publicized case involving two Casper police officers who killed a Casper resident.
Court records show that in July Saric made her first request for the settlement agreement paid to Linda Lennen, the mother of Douglas Burton Oneyear.
Saric claims Gates v. Mem'l Hospital. of Converse County holds that she is entitled to the settlement agreement under the Wyoming Public Records Act, which states that a District Court lacks inherent power, equitable or otherwise, to issue a protective order to close public records that they themselves do not exempt.
The city of Casper disputes Saric's interpretation of Gates and cited Wyoming Statute § 16-4-203(g) to withhold the settlement "because release of this record would do substantial injury to the public interest."
Per court records, the City believes that releasing the settlement "may have an unintended chilling effect on government entities' ability and desire to enter into settlement agreements to resolve legal disputes, which predictably over time will cause substantial injury to the public interest."
The petitioners listed several reasons for not disclosing the requested information.
They wrote that confidentiality was an agreed upon term in the settlement. Furthermore, they argue that forcing the City to disclose the settlement could have ramifications that affect future lawsuits involving government agencies that would ultimately lead to increased costs for the public.
"Settlement agreements allow the parties to save money, manage risk, save time, put matters behind them, keep certain matters confidential, avoid potential embarrassment, and to move on -- all of which are put in jeopardy by requiring the disclosure of all confidential settlement agreements, simply because one party to the agreement is, like the City, a governmental entity..." they wrote.
The petitioners reason that if the court chooses to disclose the settlement, it should be redacted, meaning the names of the minor claimants be blacked out to protect personal information.
We will update this story as more information becomes available.
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