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Across the Region: West Des Moines to settle discrimination lawsuit for $1.9M

IOWA

West Des Moines to settle discrimination lawsuit for $1.9M

The city of West Des Moines has agreed to pay nearly $2 million to a police officer who sued, saying the department’s former police chief discriminated against her because she’s a woman.

The city announced the $1.9 million settlement with Sgt. Tanya Zaglauer Schmell on Tuesday, two days after Chief Shaun LaDue resigned under pressure from city management.

Zaglauer Schmell was one of three women who sued last year, claiming they were unfairly passed over for promotions and suffered unwarranted discipline. The two other women earlier settled their claims. Zaglauer Schmell, a 17-year veteran of the West Des Moines Police Department, took her case to trial last week.

City Manager Tom Hadden said the city’s insurance provider sought the settlement and will pay it.

 

WISCONSIN

Jury clears ex-Packers ticket broker of fraud in civil suit

A jury has cleared a Shawano businessman of fraud allegations in a lawsuit brought by Green Bay Packers fans upset that he sold their season tickets to Lambeau Field.

Jurors late Friday ruled in favor of Douglas Burris on nearly every count. The Shawano Leader reports jurors awarded the plaintiffs a combined estimated $25,000 on a couple of minor findings.

Burris acquired 331 season tickets for Packers home games in 1991 when he bought a Shawano tavern owned by longtime Packers boosters.

Burris built a network of 76 customers who paid for access to his season tickets. In 2012, Burris sold his stockpile for $1.4 million to Event USA, a Green Bay brokerage.

Lead plaintiff Michael Landwehr says the jury “just got it wrong.” Burris denied any fraudulent conduct.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

Criminal justice task force pushes for mental health reforms

A group that for months studied issues surrounding mentally ill people entering the criminal justice system in South Dakota released a final report Monday with a series of proposed changes in an effort to improve the treatment of those individuals.

The recommendations of the state-appointed task force include the use of telehealth for competency evaluations and the requirement that such exams be completed within 21 days of a court order. The group, which met for the first time in March, studied how individuals with a mental illness encounter law enforcement and move through the court system, jails and probation.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson announced the formation of the 22-member task force last year after The Argus Leader reported that a backlog of mental competency evaluations of criminal suspects is taxing county budgets and raising concerns about the rights of defendants. The task force found the number of court orders regarding competency evaluations increased from 48 in the fiscal year 2013 to 147 in 2015.

“Given South Dakota’s limited mental health resources, this increase resulted in people sitting in jail for months before they could be evaluated by those authorized to do mental competency evaluations,” Gilberston wrote. “Our existing system became unmanageable and enlarged taxpayer expense since people were housed in jail for longer periods of time at public expense.”

The group identified that the cost of the evaluations also contributed to the delays faced by some defendants. Counties have a “fiscal incentive” to rely on the state-run Human Services Center for the evaluations because they only have to pay a $600 admission fee, leaving the state to pick up the cost of the exam, according to the report. But the center can only conduct three evaluations per month, and the cost of an evaluation by a private psychiatrist is about $3,500.

One of the task force’s suggestions is to make available to counties funds from the Human Services Center to contract for the completion of the competency evaluations.

“The intent is that the Human Services Center will no longer conduct competency evaluations,” according to the report.

The suggestions from the task force to Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the Legislature also include the need to expand the list of mental health professionals allowed to conduct competency evaluations and not limit it to psychiatrists and psychologists. The panel recommended that some social workers, nurses and counselors be allowed to conduct the evaluations.

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