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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims

Commission votes to settle discrimination lawsuit

MOUND CITY – After a closed door session with legal counsel, the Linn County Commission voted to settle a civil lawsuit filed against the county by a former Pleasanton resident who was in an unlawful sexual relationship with a school resource officer when she was a 15-year-old.

The woman filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in December 2020 charging the county, Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend and Pleasanton USD 344 violated her civil rights.

County counselor Gary Thompson said the terms of the settlement were confidential, but that the settlement reached covered all of the defendants in the case. He also said that the county’s insurance company would pay for the damages.

The woman filed the lawsuit after former school resource officer (SRO) and deputy David Huggins allegedly had unlawful sexual relationship with the woman when she was a student at Pleasanton High School.

In 2018 Huggins, who was 44 years old when the crime occurred, pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2019.

The original lawsuit named the late Paul Filla, a former sheriff who resigned his post in 2019. The lawsuit alleged that Filla and the Pleasanton school district knew what was going on and failed to act. Filla died in April 2022.

The civil suit charged that the county was negligent in hiring staff, failed to adequately supervise and discipline staff, and violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 by discriminating against plaintiff on the basis of her sex. The lawsuit also charged the school district with negligence and violation of Title IX.

Sheriff Friend said that when he took over as sheriff after Filla’s retirement in 2019, he revised and modernized the department’s 20-plus-year-old policy manual. That included procedures to safeguard against future incidents. Standardized operational procedures and guidelines for SROs was upgraded again last year.

In an effort to change the culture of the sheriff’s office, Friend said that sheriff’s employees who witness wrongdoing are required to report it. Failure to do so makes the witness as guilty as the one who commits the wrongdoing, he added.

He also said that the lawsuit is now a part of the office’s history, but it is being used in employee discussions to remind them of consequences of violating the trust of students, schools and parents.

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