The Medical Lake City Council agreed Tuesday night to enter into a resignation agreement with police Sgt. Joseph Mehrens.
The former Medical Lake police sergeant will receive $20,000 from the city and will agree to release the city from all legal claims. The council voted 5-0 to accept the agreement. Two members were absent.
Doug Ross, the city administrator, said $13,000 of that sum is accrued vacation time and sick leave.
“It’s not a reward of any sort, but it’s to make sure we don’t incur any more legal fees,” Ross told the council. “For that $7,000 this employee has resigned, will no longer be part of the police force.”
Mehrens was placed on paid administrative leave last August after a female civilian employee filed a criminal complaint with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office about an incident in January 2008 in which Mehrens touched the employee’s breast at work. Mehrens had been the interim police chief in Medical Lake at the time.
Mehrens entered an Alford plea last month to fourth degree assault, meaning he admits no guilt but feels he would be found guilty if the case went to court.
“It’s the moral issue that just outrages me,” said Sandy Staples, a Medical Lake resident. Staples told the council that she worried the same thing could happen to other women in another city.
Mayor John Higgins said there is no guarantee that won’t happen, but did say Mehrens’ criminal record would follow him.
Staples asked the council what kind of recommendation the city would give prospective employers in the future. Ross said the city would consult with its lawyer regarding what it can and can’t say when asked for references.
Ross said the city spent $1,000 on Friday while consulting with its lawyers about the agreement and he didn’t want the city to spend any more money on legal fees if the city was sued for unfair labor practices. He said it was in the best interest of the city to sign the agreement.
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