Carson City settles police chief lawsuit with $273,000


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 7:31 am on Friday, March 30, 2012

Jeff Hilliker

CARSON CITY — The city of Carson City is paying its former police chief more than a quarter million dollars to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Former Carson City police chief Jeff Hilliker received $273,000 after being fired last spring, according to an out-of-court settlement obtained by The Daily News via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Hilliker, his attorney, Tom Pabst of Flint, and the city of Carson City’s attorney, Patrick Aseltyne of Lansing, signed the final agreement.

 

History

Hilliker joined the Carson City Police Department in 1997 after serving as a police officer in Crystal Township and Cedar Springs. He also was a firefighter at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids and in Algoma Township. He became Carson City’s police chief in 2008 after Frank Griswold retired as police chief.

Hilliker was “relieved of his duties” on March 14, 2011. Carson City Police Officer Nick Barbour resigned three days earlier.

City Administrator Mark Borden read a prepared statement at a Carson City Council meeting March 15.

“After many months of careful consideration and assessment of the policies, procedures and personnel of the Carson City Police Department, I have decided that certain improvements can and should be made,” Borden said. “The first change I felt was necessary was a change of police personnel.”

When residents in the audience asked for more information, Borden and Mayor Bruce Tasker declined to elaborate. The City Council voted 7-0 to support Borden’s decision without further discussion.

The Daily News obtained copies of Hilliker’s personnel file via a FOIA request. The file did not contain documents naming any disciplinary action or reasons for Hilliker’s termination.

Hilliker’s file contained a number of complaints filed by citizens. Complaints ranged from Hilliker using excessive force to driving too fast without lights and sirens activated.

 

Lawsuit and settlement

Hilliker filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Carson City in April 2011.

An out-of-court settlement was reached on Jan. 7 of this year.

Hilliker and his attorney will receive $273,000 from the city of Carson City. In exchange, Hilliker agreed to “fully and forever release, acquit and discharge” the city of Carson City, Borden, Tasker and council members Dan Cusack and Neil Kapustka from “any and all claims” that were pending in Kent County Circuit Court.

The agreement is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing by the city, Borden, Tasker, Cusack or Kapustka, all of whom deny any wrongdoing in this matter.

The city must remove all negative references or comments found in Hilliker’s personnel file and his file must reflect that he resigned for personal reasons.

Hilliker told The Daily News he was happy with the settlement agreement.

Borden declined comment for this story.

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