A Texas Attorney General's Office ruling has mandated Smith County release details in a sexual harassment lawsuit, including the awarding of $200,000 to the plaintiff.
Smith County had initially told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that the dollar amount and other details in the Dec. 19, 2011, settlement between the defendants, being the county and Precinct 5 Constable Dennis Taylor, and the plaintiff, Wynthia Savering, were confidential.
Part of the original harassment suit stated that Taylor had made several unwanted sexual advances toward Ms. Savering.
However, after being asked to rule on the open records denial, the AG's office stated in an opinion dated April 24 to Smith County Civil Assistant District Attorney Stan Springerly, “You inform us the settlement agreement at issue is subject to a confidentiality agreement. However, information in not confidential under the (Public Information) Act simply because the party submitting the information to a governmental body anticipates or requests that it be kept confidential. Thus a governmental body cannot, through an agreement or contract, overrule or repeal provisions of the act.”
After being informed of the ruling on Monday, Smith County sent the information to the newspaper on Tuesday.
According to the 16-page settlement, Ms. Savering was awarded $200,000, which she received a lump payment of $107,801.06, and her attorneys received $92,198.94
The settlement also stated that Taylor, who has vehemently denied allegations he harassed Ms. Savering, must write a letter of recommendation for Ms. Savering, reinstate Ms. Savering to his office and amend her Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Standards and Education Separation of License form to reflect she was honorably discharged.
Smith County officials have already stated that the county had paid $20,000 in insurance deductibles for the lawsuit.
In the settlement papers the second parties, being Smith County and Taylor, stated they believed the conduct was rightful and constitutional and that they have no liability in the case.
“Second parties believe this is a doubtful and disputed claim. Second parties believe they would prevail at trial on merits on the first party's claims. In the interest of efficiency and in order to avoid costly and lengthy litigation, however, the second parties have consented to the settlement of the present action,” the document states.
In the letter of recommendation for Ms. Savering by Taylor, the constable stated she was named the officer of the year for his office in 2007 and she would be a valuable resource to an employer.
Updated Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 12:35 p.m. CDT