MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Martinsburg Police Department officer’s lawsuit that claimed the municipality had been negligent in retaining a male officer after he allegedly sexually harassed her has been settled for $270,000.
The payment to Cpl. Marybeth Cole and the Huntington, W.Va., law firm that represented her in the case was signed by Cole on April 8.
A copy of the agreement was obtained Monday by Herald-Mail Media through a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the city.
Cole’s lawsuit, which was filed in March 2014 in Berkeley County Circuit Court, was dismissed May 13 under the agreement, court records said.
The payment to Cole and Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn LC was made via the city’s insurance carrier, which handled the lawsuit on the city’s behalf and covered the legal expenses, city Attorney Floyd M. “Kin” Sayre III said.
Cole agreed not to make any comments regarding the settlement of the case as part of the agreement.
Sayre also declined to comment on the case Monday other than to emphasize that the legal expenses were fully covered by the city’s insurance carrier.
The agreement states that “the payment made is not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the defendant (the City of Martinsburg), by whom liability is expressly denied, and that by entering into the (agreement), the defendant intends merely to avoid litigation or appeal and the costs incidental thereto, and to buy its peace.”
Cole’s lawsuit, which was filed by attorney Amy C. Crossan, did not name the officer accused of sexual harassment as a defendant.
Though he is identified in Crossan’s five-page complaint, Herald-Mail Media is not naming the officer because he was not named in the case.
The lawsuit claimed the city was liable for the officer’s actions, and contended that city officials “failed to adequately investigate and respond to the misconduct that was substantiated,” court records said.
Cole’s name was Marybeth Butcher at the time the lawsuit was filed. She was hired by the city in October 2008, records said.
Both officers still are employed by the city, records said.
In the lawsuit, Cole alleged a superior officer on Aug. 21, 2013 — while they were on patrol — asked her to meet him at a secluded location, where he “tried to kiss her and asked her to watch him (touch himself).”
The lawsuit alleged he asked her to do the same thing in 2009.
Throughout her employment, Cole had alleged she had been subjected to “vulgar, inappropriate and sexually charged” comments by the officer, including during roll call before shifts.
Cole also said in the lawsuit that she reported the harassment and an investigation substantiated her claims. But that ultimately led to the officer being demoted, and Cole being forced to share an office with him.
This story reported originally by Matthew Umstead for Herald-Mail Media