Greenwood lawsuits settled

rpulley@lsjournal.comFebruary 5, 2014 

During Marvin Megee’s terms as Greenwood mayor, the city has settled several lawsuits and he has even outlasted a police investigation.

The issues are part of the campaign by challenger Scott Hogsett who’d like to unseat the two-term mayor in the April election.

The mayor also was accused of cronyism because of four mayoral pardons. At the time, Megee said, he made few comments during the brouhaha. Now he says the statute of limitations has run out so he can comment on the pardons.

Megee said he pardoned those individuals because of policing errors he felt opened the city to civil suits. It was a way to “apologize” and dissuade those people from suing, he said.

“If I have to take the heat as mayor, for protecting the city, that’s what I signed up for,” Megee said.

The Board of Aldermen also shook up the police department, firing two officers and a police chief, who sued the city. Officers Paul White and Gary Bonine settled suits in Jackson County Circuit Court claiming age discrimination.

White’s settlement was for $199,000 while Bonine’s was for $175,000. The settlements read that: “The decision to settle this case was made by the Defendant’s insurance company and was an economic decision. Defendants expressly deny all allegations...”

The city paid $1,000 deductibles and $99,000 for its part of the settlements, Greenwood officials said. Megee said that litigating the suits would have cost more than settling.

Former Police Chief Robert Leslie has an active suit in Jackson County Circuit Court where he also claims discrimination because of age and “perceived” disability.

His attorney did not return calls for comment. He also claims Megee orchestrated his firing because Leslie cooperated with a Missouri Highway Patrol investigation of Megee.

Megee said the dismissed officers had been looking for a “final paycheck” and he believed the investigation began after politically motivated complaints to the Jackson County prosecutor.

The investigation began a few days after his re-election and lasted about eight months, he said, but no charges filed. The Jackson County prosecutor’s spokesman did not respond to email asking for confirmation that the investigation is over.

Just after he was first elected, the city also settled a long-running court battle over a quarry owned by Martin Marietta for $7 million, despite having won a $11.9 million judgment in a convoluted case where the city and quarry owners won and lost appeals and federal and circuit court.

Megee said that was a financial decision too.

Had the city sought to collect the $11.9 million, with a substantial amount being punitive damages, it would have split those damages with Missouri’s victim advocate fund. That combined with a $5 million attorney’s fee, the city would have collected a net of $1.9 million through court.

Instead, Greenwood negotiated a smaller attorney’s fee of $4 million, and with the settlement got $3 million.

The city then paid off $800,000 in debts and did $200,000 street overlay project, and banked the rest.

Megee said the result is Greenwood now has a $2.5 million average reserve in its budget.

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