By Brian Maass
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – Commerce City has agreed to pay a former police officer, Scott Green, $150,000 to settle a federal lawsuit he filed after he was terminated for filing a Colorado Open Records Act Request.
“It’s a fair resolution for Scott with the dollar amount he received. He feels vindicated,” said Green’s attorney, Reid Elkus.
According to recently filed federal court documents, Green and the city agreed on a settlement Feb. 15.
“I think the settlement reflects potentially what the behavior of the city was and how they terminated my client,” said Elkus. “I think they had concerns about the case.”
Then-Commerce City police Chief Troy Smith fired Green three months after the veteran officer filed a Colorado Open Records Act Request with the City of Arvada, seeking information on two of his fellow Commerce City officers who had previously served with the Arvada Police Department.
Green said at the time he made the CORA request “as a private citizen and did it merely as a citizen like anyone else would do.” Green was off duty when he made the request, was unarmed and was not in uniform when he traveled to Arvada to file his request.
He was seeking disciplinary information and excessive force history for two former Arvada officers who worked alongside Green at Commerce City. Green acknowledged previously having bad blood with one of the two officers.
Arvada denied Green’s request and Arvada Police Chief Don Wick then called his Commerce City counterpart, Police Chief Troy Smith, to let Smith know that one of his officers was attempting to gather information about two of his colleagues.
Smith launched an internal investigation, saying Green’s actions constituted an “unauthorized investigation” aimed at undermining his fellow officers. In depositions and various statements Smith said Commerce City officers had a history of investigating each other which proved detrimental to the department.
In 2013 Smith issued an order prohibiting his officers from investigating each other. Smith construed Green’s CORA request as an “unauthorized investigation.”
When a Commerce City sergeant reviewed the case he recommended Green only get a “log entry” for what he did. A deputy chief who reviewed the case suggested Green should get a written reprimand.
Smith disregarded those suggestions and fired Green on Dec. 1, 2014. A hearing officer upheld the firing, saying Green was axed for violating four Commerce City police policies.
Contacted by CBS4 Friday morning, Green said of the settlement, “I did the right thing, demanding accountability and transparency within my department and most of all honesty.”
“I feel vindicated by the settlement with Troy Smith and Brian McBroom (city manager). However, my fellow officers are still working within an agency that remains in turmoil. I firmly believe that police departments should operate with complete transparency and with the upmost integrity and ethics.
“Making the right choice, is often a difficult choice but is a must for any and all law enforcement personnel.”
A spokesperson for Commerce City said they were working on a statement regarding the $150,000 settlement.
Commerce City’s Fraternal Order of Police released a statement Friday saying, “We are happy that Officer Scott Green was vindicated from his wrongful termination by The City of Commerce City. Although we are happy with the outcome, we are also deeply disturbed by the pattern of large payouts for the incompetent management of the City by City Manager Brian McBroom and Troy Smith. Just within the last year, their mismanagement has cost the city nearly half a million in settlements. The city has just been served with sexual discrimination allegations against several former employees under Smith’s tenure as chief, so there is no end in sight for litigation against the city.
We as FOP Lodge 19 hope the citizens begin to hold their elected officials accountable for how much Brian McBroom and Troy Smith are costing the city in litigation. According to State FOP Representative Mike Violette, this amount of employee litigation and payouts is unprecedented in Colorado. Ultimately the people paying for this gross mismanagement are the hard working tax payers of Commerce City.