Walbridge settles suit with former law officer
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 07 December 2013 09:28
WALBRIDGE - A former village police officer who sued the village for defamation of character has settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
At Wednesday's meeting, council voted to pay its insurance company the $10,000 deductible associated with the civil lawsuit, which was settled in mediation. The action was taken after a seven-minute executive session.
"This was the best scenario," said Mayor Ed Kolanko.
He said the action was recommended by Solicitor Brian Ballenger.
"No, I'm not happy with the settlement. But, given the situation, we're trying to clean up issues from previous administrations," Kolanko said after the council meeting. "No, I'm not happy with it."
Aimee Bixler was hired as a part-time officer in January 2008, according to council minutes. She was promoted to full time in February 2009. She resigned in 2010.
Kolanko was on council when Bixler was hired and when she resigned, he confirmed. He has been mayor since January when Dan Wilczynski left.
Wilczynski, the village and current police chief Kenneth Frost, who was not chief when Bixler was an officer, were specifically named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in April in Wood County Common Pleas Court.
The lawsuit alleges that about eight months after Bixler was hired, she was subjected to a pattern of sexual harassment. Bixler said she was called a stripper and discriminated against. The former police chief, Walt Tylicki, wouldn't take action, she said, and neither would then-mayor Wilczynski.
Believing she was about to be fired, Bixler quit on Aug. 7, 2010.
In May 2012, she interviewed for a police job in Tallahassee, Fla. When an investigator called Walbridge for background, he reached Frost, who had never worked with Bixler.
"During Defendant Frost's phone conference with the Tallahassee Police Department, he stated that 'they (Tallahassee Police Department) are better off without her,' as he felt she would harm their integrity," the lawsuit said.
Bixler said the Florida department discontinued the interview process.
"Said defamatory statements have rendered Plaintiff un-hireable as a law enforcement officer," the lawsuit said.
The result was a loss of wages and benefits, loss of reputation, humiliation, loss of self-esteem and adverse emotional effects in amount exceeding $25,000, Bixler alleged.
Kolanko said that the insurance company that represents the village settled the case out of court and Walbridge was responsible for the $10,000 deductible.
He was asked what Bixler was paid.
"That's not disclosed," Kolanko said.
Frost, on Thursday, said he was aware of Bixler's allegations, but the settlement says he cannot talk about the case.
"I can't comment on it, because of what was written in the final outcome," he said. "The only comment I can make is that she was employed."