The City of Fort Collins has settled with city police officers Detective Kennyberg Araujo and Sergeant Francis Gonzales after the pair filed a lawsuit against the City alleging discrimination and retaliation on the basis of race and national origin.
Per the settlement, all claims against the City, former Deputy Chief of Police Don Vagge, and Police Sergeant Gary Shaklee will be dismissed with prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs are prevented from suing again on the same claim.
The settlement awards Araujo and Gonzalesz a total of $425,000, including attorney’s fees. The settlement also requires several actions that the City will take to prevent situations like this from arising in the future.
The settlement was reached because both the Plaintiffs and the City wanted to avoid the expense of litigation, according to the City of Fort Collins.
In the complaint, Araujo and Gonzales claimed that their FCPD superiors prevented them from getting promotions, repeatedly and openly criticized them, retaliated against them after they filed internal complaints, used racial slurs and unfairly disciplined them.
“It took considerable courage for Sgt. Gonzales and former Detective Araujo to raise these issues, and through this process, they have expressed a genuine interest in ensuring a positive environment for all in Fort Collins Police Services,” Police Chief John Hutto said. “City Manager Darin Atteberry and I share this interest. As a department, we are absolutely committed to developing and maintaining a culture of mutual respect, trust, non-discrimination and non-retaliation.”
The actions the city must take are as follows:
First, the City will investigate any alleged policy violations related to the lawsuit, and take appropriate actions against employees found to have violated these policies.
Second, the City will also create an “EEO Office” in the City Manager’s office that will provide officers with a way, outside of and independent of Fort Collins Police Services, to report complaints of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment.
Third, with help from the Fraternal Order of Police, the City create a training strategy for the FCPS that ensures all employees, present and future, are educated on how to prevent and address the harassment, discrimination, and retaliation that was detailed in the lawsuit.
Fourth, it will strive to achieve, within five years, a workplace at FCPS that reflects the diversity of the population of the City of Fort Collins. The City will also review recruitment strategies to ensure a diverse pool of qualified candidates that will be reflective of the community.
Fifth, the City will track, and continually scan for, emerging trends in need of proactive attention. Also, on at least a biannual basis, the police chief, members of the City leadership team, and FOP representatives will meet to review progress on these issues.
“Sergeant Gonzales, Detective Araujo, and FOP Lodge No. 3 were driven by a desire to change the culture of the department to ensure FCPS was a safe, healthy, and equitable place for all of its employees to work,” said Spencer Alvord, the President of the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3.
Detective Araujo and Sgt. Gonzales’ attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, said his clients were pleased with the changes the city plans to make as a result of the case.
“My clients applaud the policy changes being implemented by the City of Fort Collins,” Mohamedbhai said. “For my clients, these policy changes were the most important aspects of this settlement.”
Collegian reporter Stuart Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notstuartsmith.