The terms and dollar amount of a settlement in a lawsuit filed by two former deputies against county commissioners and the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office will likely be kept from the public.
Judge Sara Lioi, in the United States District Court Northern District of Ohio, granted a joint motion Jan. 31 for approval to seal a confidential settlement between former deputies Mark Mullett and Sheri Allen against the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office and the Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners.
The county has agreed to pay substantially all unpaid overtime, liquidated damages and all attorney fees, the motion states.
Attorneys for both sides argued that even though the court three years ago denied a motion to seal a settlement in a large class-action lawsuit filed by thousands of people against the largest health insurer in Michigan, this case involves two private citizens and the public doesn’t have a strong interest in in obtaining information about the money to be paid.
Mullett, who in April resigned from the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office, filed the federal lawsuit May 3 accusing the Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners, Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff William Johnson of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Allen, who also resigned, signed on to the suit later.
“We will go by what the court wants and we will be in full compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Johnson said.
County commissioners two weeks ago passed a resolution approving a general settlement agreement before the document was sealed. At the time they denied a public-records request for details of the settlement.
“I’m pleased to see a resolution in the matter so that all parties can now move past the lawsuit,” Casey Kozlowski, president of the Board of Commissioners, said.
An attorney for Mullett could not be reached for comment.
In February 2014, Mullett, who began working with for the office in 2007, became a deputy sheriff K-9 handler, which is an hourly position, the lawsuit states.
Mullett bought the dog, named Jager, with his own money, according to the complaint, and most training between he and the dog occurred while he was off-duty. Mullett claims he was never paid for the time. Mullet claims that since the county did not keep records of the hours he worked, he is entitled to submit his own information about the number of hours worked.
The suit also states that Mullett and other employees were paid longevity bonuses that should have factored into overtime compensation but did not.
In the joint motion for approval of a confidential settlement filed Jan. 31, it states that on Oct. 9 the county and sheriff’s office produced time and pay records for Mullett and Allen in order to expedite settlement discussions. Around one week later attorneys for Mullett and Allen submitted a demand which the county rejected via a counter-offer.
After this the parties reached a “comprehensive agreement to resolve this entire matter,” the motion states. If approved by the court, the settlement agreement will resolve all issues in the case.
Mullet is a defendant in a separate lawsuit filed against the Sheriff’s Office by Edward Dirggl involving an assault incident for which former Sgt. James Truckey lost his job.