Asheville Police Department Officer Eric Lauffer, whose explicit text messages to his then-subordinate, Officer Cherie Byrd, were at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit that the city settled this week for $52,100, is still employed by the department.
Photo by Jonathan Welch
Personnel records obtained by Xpress show that Lauffer, first hired by the APD in 1987, was demoted from sergeant to police officer senior last June. He’s now assigned to the department’s patrol division. Lauffer makes $53,068 a year, down from $58,964 in his previous position. Lauffer was one of the APD’s officers of the year in 2008.
Byrd’s lawsuit alleged that Lauffer, then Byrd’s direct superior in the Drug Suppression Unit, sent explicit and racially offensive text messages to her, beginning in summer 2008 and continuing into 2009, including “I must licky you” and “I am just a man. Never satisfied always wanting more.” Byrd’s lawsuit also claimed that she had brought the matter to the attention of the APD’s leadership as well as the city’s human resources department and City Manager, but that they ignored her complaints.
Last June, responses to Byrd’s lawsuit from the city of Asheville and Lauffer’s attorney admitted he had sent the text messages, but denied any wrongdoing and asserted that the APD and city staff had properly investigated and responded to her complaints.
The same personnel records show that Byrd, hired by the APD in 2002, made a salary of $41,325 a year at the time of her resignation last April, following a period of administrative leave.
On April 12, after City Council members went into closed session to consider the case, City Attorney Bob Oast announced that the city was settling the lawsuit, paying Byrd $48,000 and reimbursing her for $4,100 in mediation fees.
— David Forbes, senior news reporter