The following statements from Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz and Attorney Bill Berryman are issued following the Mayor and Commission’s approval at its March 5, 2019 monthly meeting of a settlement agreement with former Athens-Clarke County Police Officer Taylor Saulters who had filed suit against the Unified Government and named individuals related to his dismissal from employment following a police pursuit incident that occurred on June 1, 2018.
Statement from Mayor Kelly Girtz
Athens-Clarke County has finalized a settlement with former Police Officer Taylor Saulters. Like we have done with past circumstances involving members of the community and members of our Police Department, we evaluated this situation based on its own unique facts and circumstances. We, the Mayor and Commission of Athens-Clarke County, have made this decision in order to avoid prolonging the pain and expense of continued litigation, and further place our energy moving forward into ensuring that safe, dignified lives can be lived throughout our community. Most significantly:
- We are fortunate to have a strong new leader in our Police Department, Chief Cleveland Spruill, and a commitment to ensuring that the Police Department is supplied with the necessary training, support, and tools to be positively engaged in the life and health of Athens.
- This year we will be creating an Office of Inclusion and Diversity to place a range of community needs at center stage, including youth development work and efforts to significantly improve economic mobility.
No amount of money, and no cash settlement can substitute for the active, ongoing, equitable engagement we will pursue in the months and years ahead, as we continue to build partnerships and trust with the entire community.
Statement from Athens-Clarke County Attorney Bill Berryman
The Mayor and Commission have approved settlement of the pending lawsuit filed by Taylor Saulters against the Unified Government, Manager Blaine Williams, former Police Chief Scott Freeman, former Police Public Information Officer Epifanio Rodriguez and former Lt. Richard Odum. The Unified Government continues to deny all liability for this claim.
The following specific factors were considered in reaching the final settlement: (1) following the incident on June 1, the Georgia State Patrol later amended its initial crash report following an investigation by the Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT), which changed its original determination and found that former Officer Saulters was not at fault; (2) following an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Georgia Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, which would have been responsible for prosecuting any criminal violations arising out of the incident on June 1, concluded that no criminal prosecution of Mr. Saulters was warranted and, further, that Mr. Saulters’ actions constituted a reasonable use of force; and (3) the Athens-Clarke County Police Department internal investigation report of Mr. Saulters’ actions, issued two days following the incident, was not consistent with the department’s typical timing or procedure for such reports and did not have the benefit of the later investigations by the Georgia State Patrol and the GBI and Prosecuting Attorneys Council.
With regards to the above facts, the Unified Government agreed to a $250,000 settlement to avoid the additional cost of continued litigation and the potential risk of an adverse outcome.