After $38,000 lump sum payment, Stockbridge resettles with former police officer who threatened lawsuit

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STOCKBRIDGE — The town has settled a threatened lawsuit by a former police officer seeking $48,897 in payments stemming from her resignation as part of a confidential May 2015 settlement agreement.

The new amendment to the original agreement gives Heidi Teutsch of Stockbridge an additional lump-sum payout of $38,000.

The original settlement called for Teutsch to receive $92,500, "subject to payroll deductions and any other deductions required by law." Before last month's amended agreement, the town had paid her $28,309.94 "after certain withholdings were deducted" from the original amount, Town Administrator Danielle Fillio said.

According to Boston attorney Eric S. Goldman, representing Teutsch, the town incorrectly deducted $41,090 for "injured on duty" disability pay dating to October 2014 and for regular weekly pay through Oct. 31, 2015, the effective date of her resignation.

In a letter dated June 21, 2017, to Fillio, Goldman, of the firm Anderson, Goldman, Tobin & Pasciucco, demanded a final payment of $48,897, including interest.

"In the event that Heidi Teutsch must file suit," the letter stated, "it is her intention to seek not only interest owed but the reimbursement of legal fees."

Copies of the demand letter were sent to Select Board Chairman Donald Chabon and members Ernest J. Cardillo and Terry Flynn, as well as attorney Donna Brewer of Miyares & Harrington, the firm that represents the town.

The Finance Committee was expected to discuss the amended agreement at its meeting Tuesday night.

The long-running dispute between Teutsch and the town dates to November 2014, when she was placed on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons during former Police Chief Robert Eaton's tenure.

Under the confidential, binding final settlement with the town in May 2015, she agreed to resign, effective Oct. 31 of that year. The settlement was funded through the town's insurer and an appropriation by town voters for litigation expenses.

The agreement, announced by the Select Board on May 22, 2015, after closed-door sessions, terminated the case and protected the town against any further action, including any possible lawsuit, according to the board's public statement.

The text of the agreement stated that Teutsch waived "any and all claims against the defendant, Town of Stockbridge, its police department and the police chief, Robert Eaton." But the case was reopened after she alleged that the settlement's contract had been breached.

As part of the settlement, a complaint filed by Teutsch with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in late 2014 was withdrawn. The nature of that complaint remained undisclosed.

In a follow-up letter dated Oct. 23, 2017, to Brewer, the town's co-counsel, attorney Goldman submitted a draft copy of a potential legal complaint by Teutsch alleging a breach of contract and seeking a jury trial in Berkshire Superior Court.

The letter contended that the town "miscalculated and/or otherwise failed to pay the amount" owed to Teutsch, and also incorrectly and-or wrongly deducted" payments for the injured-on-duty leave that began Oct. 26, 2014.

But Goldman offered to discuss the case with the town counsel and/or the Select Board, rather than file a lawsuit.

In a Nov. 21, 2017, letter to town co-counsel Brewer, Goldman repeated his client's claims against the town totaling $41,090 plus interest of $12,327. Acknowledging that a Select Board decision had been delayed because of a medical leave by member Terry Flynn, Goldman asked for a resolution within 30 days, or a court complaint would be filed.

The day after a closed-door session Dec. 11, 2017, the three Select Board members and Teutsch signed an amended settlement agreement with an additional, final payout of $38,000.

"This amendment represents the parties' compromise of contested claims," the settlement document states. "It is not and shall not be construed as an admission of liability, fault or wrongdoing of any kind by any party."

According to Fillio, the town administrator, there was no miscalculation by the town of payments owed to Teutsch "but there is a disagreement regarding what the proper calculation is."

In response to questions from The Eagle, Fillio said "we are paying about half of what she is claiming as a settlement of this disagreement."

"The Board of Selectmen unanimously decided that it was cheaper to offer a settlement agreement rather than litigate the matter in court," she wrote in an email. "The money is being paid from excess salary lines that will not be used in this fiscal year."

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.


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