Dickerson settlement details are revealed

Lateef Dickerson

DOVER — Details of a $300,000 lawsuit settlement paid to a man whose jaw was broken by a Dover Police officer’s kick in 2013 were released Monday.

The City of Dover had previously denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Associated Press seeking settlement information in a civil action filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Lateef Dickerson, injured during an August 2013 arrest recorded on police dashcam video.

The Associated Press reported that the attorney general’s office ruled Friday  the city had violated the FOIA in refusing to release details of the agreement more than a year ago.

In December 2015, the city disclosed a $15,000 insurance deductible it paid toward the settlement, which was covered further by Traveler’s Insurance. City manager Scott Koenig said at the time the city’s portion was taken from the municipal budget.

On Monday, Mayor Robin Christiansen said it wasn’t the city’s choice not to reveal the full settlement.

He pointed to a confidentiality agreement between Dickerson, the ACLU and the insurance carrier for the other part of the payment. All declined media requests for details at the time.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m for full transparency anytime city business is involved,” the mayor said. “We acknowledged the [$15,000 the city paid] and the rest was left up to the other parties involved.

“I don’t know why all the numbers and facts couldn’t have been made public in the first place since they resulted from the actions of a public entity that’s entrusted with representing the citizen’s interests.”

The mayor continued by saying “any document that involves the city should be public. We shouldn’t operate in a vacuum.

“I will always believe in being transparent because we’re doing the public’s business.”

The settlement involved the City of Dover and then Cpl. Thomas W. Webster IV, who was acquitted of an assault charge in connection to the kick to Mr. Dickerson’s jaw during an apprehension after a reported large fight at a gas station parking lot on U.S. 13.

FOIA violation

In the seven-page settlement, Mr. Dickerson also acknowledged there were “no outstanding medical bills or hospital bills (other than a $2,405.60 bill from Christiana Care Oral Maxillofacial Faculty Practice that Dickerson’s and/or his counsel will resolve) and … (two amounts owed to the Delaware Division of Child Support Enforcement, including the $2,599.37 child support lien identified in a May·27, 2015 letter)…”

The settlement agreed to strict confidentiality and required that Mr. Dickerson “his family, his representatives and attorneys, and board members, principals, officers, employees and staff of the ACLU Foundation of Delaware, Inc. … all of whom may be informed of the terms of this settlement, shall not comment, either directly or indirectly, on any aspect of this settlement to any member of the news media, or in any way publicize or cause to be publicized in any news or communications media, including but not limited to newspapers, magazines, journals, radio, television, on-line computer systems and law-related publications, the terms and conditions of this settlement.”

Mr. Webster resigned from the police force in February 2016 and agreed to receive $230,000 in a separation agreement.

Annual $40,000 payments were scheduled for 2017 and 2018, followed by $37,500 yearly between 2019 and 2022.

All payments were scheduled to be made between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.

The full agreement between the city and Mr. Webster were provided after a FOIA request by The Associated Press.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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