Nearly three years after the lawsuit was filed in February 2018, the parties involved in an employment discrimination and defamation lawsuit involving the city of O’Fallon agreed to a settlement. Three weeks short of its initial filing, the case was closed on Jan. 25, 2021.
The suit (Case no. 1811-CC00150) was brought by Capt. Jeffery Gray and Major Kyle Kelley against the city of O’Fallon, Mayor Bill Hennessy, former O’Fallon police chiefs, plus numerous former and current members of city administration.
The settlement also ended the defamation lawsuit of Capt. Gray against former Police Chief Timothy Clothier (Case no. 2011-CC00845).
In addition, the settlement ended an internal O’Fallon Police and city investigation to review a November 2020 complaint Gray and Kelley had filed with human resources against the city administrator and then interim, now Chief Philip DuPuis.
As part of the settlement, Gray and Kelley were reinstated to their previous positions of captain and major, respectively. They had been sitting at home on paid administrative leave since Nov. 12, 2020, pending the results of the internal investigation. That investigation stemmed from complaints Gray and Kelley filed against the city administrator, Dupuis and Mayor Bill Hennessey for harassment and retaliation. The results of the investigation have not been released.
According to copies of the settlement agreements that Mid Rivers Newsmagazine obtained from the city of O’Fallon, the settlement included gross payments of $280,000 to Kelley and $300,000 to Gray, a grand total of $580,000 paid by the city. Those amounts included payments for alleged lost wages, claims of alleged emotional distress, court costs and attorney fees.
Gray and Kelley each signed their agreements on Jan. 21, and the city signed them a week later on Jan. 28. The city is to make the payments within 30 days of signing, with all payments to be made by Feb. 28.
The city included no admission of liability or wrongdoing, and the settlement closes all prior matters between Gray, Kelley, the city and all officials and employees of the city
As a condition of the settlement, Kelley retired effective immediately with normal pension and retiree health insurance benefits. He will be issued a retiree card and a retiree badge.
Gray will be reissued his regular police badge, but will not be allowed back in the police building or any O’Fallon building, except where the general public is allowed entry. As a condition of the settlement, he will not be engaged in any police work. Instead, he will make himself available to consult with the police chief and will be assigned such duties as directed by the chief.
Gray will continue as a police employee with his regular captain’s salary and benefits from now until he retires on Sept. 15, 2021. At that time, he will receive normal pension and retiree health insurance benefits and will be issued a retiree card and a retiree badge.
Asked for his comments about the settlement of the two lawsuits and the outcome of the internal investigation that began on Nov. 12, 2020, attorney John Lynch said, “My clients are more than pleased to be able to close this chapter in their lives and to be able to move on from the city of O’Fallon.”
“Unfortunately, the closing of the Gray/Kelley matter is only the beginning. I expect additional employment complaints to be filed against the city of O’Fallon and its administration by other employees, current and former,” Lynch said.
Asked for the city’s comments, O’Fallon Communications Director Tom Drabelle said, “As a matter of policy, the city does not comment on personnel matters.”
Kelley had served 30 years as an O’Fallon police officer and was the Assistant Chief of Police and the head of the Operations Division.
Gray has served 27 years, was an FBI-National Academy graduate, and last served as a captain in the operations/patrol division until this settlement.
Gray and Kelley had filed a 6-count employment discrimination lawsuit against the city of O’Fallon on Feb. 12, 2018, in St. Charles County Circuit Court. They had insisted on a jury trial. On July 19, 2019, Hennessy was added to that lawsuit as a seventh count of alleged defamation.
Throughout 2018, 2019, 2020 and into 2021, the case had proceeded in fits and starts. There were delays in obtaining discovery materials; then, delays in getting deposition scheduled. In spring 2020, the pandemic caused court-related shutdowns and delays. Finally, the defendants deposed plaintiffs Gray and Kelley via Zoom on Aug. 19.
On Sept. 3, 2020, Lynch had filed a lawsuit against Clothier on behalf of Gray, alleging defamation by the chief from a separate incident in 2020.
For the original case and on behalf of the plaintiffs, Lynch had been scheduling depositions of the defendants via Zoom for November and December 2020 and January 2021.
Those depositions included Clothier, City Administrator Mike Snowden, Director of Human Resources Tanya Davies, Hennessy, city clerk Pam Clement, former interim police chief Gary George, former city administrator Bonnie Therrien, retired police chief Roy Joachimstaler, and administrative services director John Griesenauer.
Lynch had said a trial date would be set once the depositions were completed. The settlement negates any further depositions and the trial.