City of Aspen settles lawsuit with ex-police officer
August 26, 2011
ASPEN – The city of Aspen and a former police officer have settled a lawsuit that was scheduled for jury trial next week.
Attorneys confirmed Thursday that a deal has been reached with Melinda Calvano, who sued the city government and City Manager Steve Barwick in July 2007 on discrimination claims connected to gender bias, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Her suit sought $460,000 in damages.
“Really, other than the fact that we settled it, I can’t say anything about the terms of it until we have completed it,” said Snowmass Village attorney Gary Doehling, who worked for the city on behalf of its insurance carrier, Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency.
Doehling and city attorney John Worcester declined to answer whether the settlement includes Calvano receiving compensation for her alleged damages. Calvano’s attorney, Marc Colin of Denver, did not return a telephone message Thursday.
Doehling said the settlement Tuesday was announced to District Judge James Boyd Thursday during a status conference.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Friday, Sept. 2, with testimony set to run from Sept. 6-10 in Pitkin County District Court. Between the city and Calvano, nearly 60 people were on the witness list, including past and current employees of both the Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
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Calvano, who was an Aspen police officer from 2002 to 2006, alleged that the city retaliated against her when it fired her July 27, 2006 – one month after she Tasered a homeless woman in the alley behind the Thrift Shop of Aspen.
The city argued that Calvano was treated fairly and it was her unnecessary Tasering of Carol Alexy that resulted in her termination. Calvano’s attorney, however, said in court filings that she Tasered Alexy because she felt threatened by the woman, who was allegedly digging through a Thrift Shop trash bin.
Arguments on both sides took a heated tone in past court filings in the lawsuit, as Colin attempted to show that the APD was rife with misconduct, sexual harassment and a double-standard approach toward female employees. Doehling, in court papers, argued that Colin was forcing the city to “have ‘mini trials’ based on hearsay allegations.”
Whatever the case, the Taser incident prompted the APD to craft a policy regulating stun-gun use one year after the Thrift Shop episode. It has been in effect ever since.
Calvano, now 37, later took a position with the Lone Tree Police Department on the Front Range. She no longer works there.