Documents shed new light on APD sexual harassment settlement

As part of the $52,100 settlement of sexual harassment lawsuit by former Asheville Police Department officer Cherie Byrd against the city of Asheville and her former superior Eric Lauffer, the city received back all of the documents it provided to Byrd, according to records obtained by Xpress.

“We are trying to maintain as much confidentiality [as possible] as this is a personnel matter,” minutes from the April 12 closed session quote Rendi Mann-Stadt, an outside attorney representing the city in the case, as saying. As part of the terms of the settlement, a protective order on the case remains in effect, and Byrd is required to return all documents provided to her or her attorneys by the city.

Lauffer, who is still employed by the APD, though he was demoted following the lawsuit, sent Byrd explicit and racially offensive text messages while she was under his command as part of the Drug Suppression Unit. Byrd alleged that both APD officials and city staff failed to respond to her complaints and, after receiving a go-ahead from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sued Lauffer and the city last year. She has since left the department. A Dec. 14 city attorney’s memo updating Council on the case asserted that after medical and maternity leave, “Ms. Byrd has refused offers to return to work.”

The same memo declares that “the City appears to have several strong defenses, but the matter is still in the discovery phase, so the strength of the case and the potential damages (which could include attorney’s fees) are difficult to estimate at this time.”

The documents also reveal that the amount of the settlement — $48,000 in back wages and $4,100 in mediation fees — was arrived at after a day-long mediation between the parties in late March. On April 12, Council member Bill Russell made the motion for the settlement, which Council member Gordon Smith seconded. The minutes don’t record any discussion or comments by anyone of the elected officials, and they approved the settlement unanimously.

An April 1 memo to Council from City Attorney Bob Oast reveals that details about the settlement were leaked to news media, “and that the media has begun contacting City officials.” At the closed session, Council authorized Oast to release the details of the settlement.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

3 thoughts on “Documents shed new light on APD sexual harassment settlement

  1. YanceyCo

    Why is Lauffer still employed by the APD? If this had happened in private industry he would have been terminated. Shameful!

  2. cwaster

    Don’t you just love it when some of your tax dollars go to pay this sort of lawsuit and the guy gets to keep his job? That’s classy.

  3. I’m figuring $210,000 in cleanup fees (audit evidence room $145,000, pay Bryd $48,000 , bailout Community Relations council @ $18,000. in this past few months. This comes out of taxpayers pockets… and there may be more we don’t know about. It’s time to start DEMANDING better leadership from the City Manager.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.