The Fort Myers City Council voted unanimously to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by NFL player Nate Allen for the sum of $440,000 on Monday.
Council members came to the decision after a closed door session that included the legal teams of both parties earlier that afternoon. The Miami Dolphins player, who graduated from Cape Coral High, was arrested in 2015 after being mistakenly identified as a man who exposed himself to a 16 year-old girl and then masturbated in his vehicle.
The city fired then police chief Doug Baker for allegedly lying during the course of the investigation into how officers may have mishandled the case.
Mayor Randall Henderson apologized to Allen on behalf of the city, expressing the council’s desire to make things right and move forward.
“Nothing about this has been fun, especially for Mr. Allen,” said Henderson. “I want to give you a heartfelt thank you, and I know the council will thank you, and again apologize to you that this was even an issue.”
The football player told the council that he held no ill will towards the FMPD and he expressed gratitude for the steps that the city had taken since the incident to improve operations inside the police department.
“This is home for me. At the end of the day, when I’m done in the NFL, I’ll be right back here. There’s no other place for me,” Allen said.
Henderson shook hands with Allen after both men signed the agreement, praising the NFL player for the way he handled the process.
“I just want to say, as we continue down this road, you’re a class act, and you’re going to help make our city better,” Henderson said.
Allen also presented the council with a document listing additional suggestions on how the FMPD could take steps to improve their relationship with the community.
Cost mounts for investigation into city attorney
While settling the civil rights lawsuit with Allen may have closed the close the book on one expensive legal issue for the city, council members were surprised to find that another had just begun.
Members were shocked to find that the investigation into complaints about aggressive behavior by City Attorney Grant Alley by an outside law firm had reached a staggering cost. The council had originally authorized $30,000 for the investigation after Alley made members aware of complaints that had been logged against him with the city’s human resource department in early August. On Monday, council members were asked to authorize an additional $100,000 to fund the investigation.
Ally has been on leave while a Naples-based law firm, Coleman, Hazzard, Taylor & Diaz, has been looking into the complaints. The firm came back with their preliminary findings earlier this month, suggesting that Alley did engage in behavior that warranted discipline. Council members voted to continue the investigation, not realizing the costs they were accruing. More than $84,000 worth of legal fees have already been incurred by the city.
Council Member Michael Flanders expressed a concern echoed by a number of his fellow members, that the investigation was necessary but costs had spiraled so quickly beyond what the council expected.
“Here’s what really chaps me, because I have been lead down a path to a box I can’t get out of,” said Flanders.
Despite his reservations, Flanders did vote with the majority to bring the spending authorization for the investigation up to the requested $130,000. The issue passed 5-2, with Council Members Terolyn Watson and Johnny Streets dissenting.
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