City of Bend insurer pays to settle ex-officer's suit

City says it was insurance co.'s call to pay $40K, avoid trial

BEND, Ore. - The insurance company for the city of Bend has paid a $40,000 settlement to resolve a 4-year-old lawsuit filed by a former police officer who claimed he was wrongfully fired after complaining about illegal arrests and actions and racial discrimination against Hispanics, the parties confirmed Wednesday.

However, city officials said they had rejected any efforts to pay a settlement to Brett Ryan, still refuting all of his claims, and that it was the city's insurance firm that decided it would be cheaper to settle the case, rather than go to trial.

Ryan, a Bend officer from 2005 until his dismissal in 2008, filed a tort claim notice against the city in early 2009 and filed suit in 2010 in Deschutes County Circuit Court, seeking nearly $1.6 million in damages. The city later successfully had the lawsuit moved to federal court, since it alleged violations of federal civil rights.

Ryan's lawyer, Larry Linder of Salem, said the case was set to go to trial in June but that the police department agreed to pay him damages instead.

Linder said Ryan, now a lawyer in Las Vegas, attributes the settlement in part due to "blatant inconsistencies between (now)-Interim Chief (Jim) Porter's sworn testimony and his prior statements," as well as being contradicted by other officers' sworn testimony and written police reports."

The lawyer also claimed the city "failed to provide Ryan with a copy of a dispatch recording and a copy of a police report regarding one of the incidents that was at issue in the litigation."

But in a statement provided Wednesday to NewsChannel 21, city Communications Director Justin Finestone said Linder had offered to settle the case back in January, but was "advised by the attorney for the city that the city is not going to pay to settle the case, and the case would have to be tried."

The settlement by the city's insurance company, which was defending the city against the lawsuit, "was paid with money from the insurance company," Finestone said.

"It is the city's understanding that the case was settled by the insurance company because it was cheaper to settle the case than try the case," the city spokesman said.

Linder said that his client "feels vindicated and hopes that this will help prevent similar occurrences to others in the future."

However, Finestone said, "The city's position was and is that the plaintiff had his (police) certification taken away because of his conduct, and thus had no (legitimate claim to) damages."

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