Ald. Paul Skidmore Tuesday evening introduced a resolution that would require elected city officials to sign off on future $3.35 million court settlements like the one awarded February 24 by an insurance company. Faceless bureaucrats awarded the money without input from city leaders (supposedly!) to claimants in the death of Tony T. Robinson Jr., a convicted felon high on dope who attacked a police officer called to quell his random attacks on innocent bystanders.
The resolution specifies that “The disposition of future lawsuits against the City of Madison and/or City of Madison employees will be subject to the direction of the Common Council with the assent of the Mayor.” It won’t come up for a vote tonight but merely will be introduced. We will be surprised if it ever comes up for a vote on the Council floor. I wish that Ald. Skidmore had insisted on a probe to determine who authorized an insurance company to decide on its own volition a multi-million-dollar settlement with profound impacts on the City of Madison.
The settlement does not even contain a gag order on the claimants, who are now free to disparage the City, its police department, and the individual officer. All, without sworn testimony, recourse to cross examination, the rules of evidence, or the findings of fact by an impartial judge or jury.
Ald. Skidmore’s resolution:
Whereas, the family of Tony Terrell Robinson Jr. brought suit in federal court against the City of Madison and an employee alleging violation of Mr. Robinson’s civil rights; and
Whereas, plaintiffs alleged important issues of fact and law disputed by the City of Madison and injurious to its reputation; and
Whereas, the federal judge dismissed the Madison Police Department as a defendant in the lawsuit but retained the case against a single City of Madison employee; and
Whereas, that employee has been exonerated by independent investigation conducted by state Division of Criminal Investigation and by an internal investigation by the Madison Police Department into the matter alleged by the lawsuit; and
Whereas, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, upon reviewing the fruits of those investigations determined there was no cause to bring criminal charges against the City of Madison employee; and
Whereas, an insurance company (specifically, the Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company) decided to settle with the plaintiffs in the amount of $3.35 million — the largest settlement in a police action in Wisconsin history — three working days before trial was scheduled to begin; and
Whereas, this decision was made apparently without the involvement of the Mayor of Madison, the
Madison Common Council, or even its City Attorney; and
Whereas, this settlement leaves the plaintiffs free to disparage the City of Madison and its employee without recourse to sworn testimony, cross examination, or the independent judgment of a disinterested judge; and
Therefore Be it Resolved, that decisions involving lawsuits brought by or against the City of Madison are properly the responsibility of its elected officials, not agents of an insurance company; and that removing decisions in such matters frustrates the accountability citizens in a democracy rightfully expect from their elected officials; and
Be it Finally Resolved that the disposition of future lawsuits against the City of Madison will be subject to the direction of the Common Council with the assent of the Mayor.
We discussed the $3.35 million settlement at “the buck does not stop here.”