NEWPORT BEACH – Two lawsuits filed against the city by three former Newport Beach police officers who claimed they had been retaliated against for filing complaints regarding the promotional process were settled Friday, city officials said.
According to the settlement, an insurance carrier – the city’s partner in the litigation – will pay $600,000, while the city will contribute $350,000.
Former officers Craig Frizzell, Steve Schulman and Robert Morton filed the lawsuits in July 2012. As a result of one suit, Frizzell and Schuman each will receive $425,000, and as a result of the other, Morton will receive $100,000.
In a release issued Friday, the city stated that its insurance carrier determined that it was “more economical to end the litigation at this time rather than incur additional legal fees through trial.”
The Newport Police Department has faced multiple lawsuits in recent years. The Register reported in August that the city had spent more than $580,000 to defend against four suits in two years.
The cases share an underlying set of allegations: that the police department was plagued by favoritism and unfair promotion practices, and commanders retaliated against officers who tried to blow the whistle.
One of the city’s most costly settlements was in June 2009, when former officer Neil Harvey was awarded more than $700,000 after he convinced a jury he was denied promotions because of false rumors about his sexual orientation. In the case, the city chose to go to trial to try to disprove Harvey’s allegations, rather than settle with him.
“We understand the business decision made by our excess insurance carrier, given they are paying two-thirds of the proposed settlement,” City Attorney Aaron Harp said in a release.
Staff Writer Eric Hartley contributed to this report.
BY CHRISTOPHER EARLEY / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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