St. Louis County executive announces settlement in Wildhaber judgment

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St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, Chief Jon Belmar, and police Lt. Keith Wildhaber.

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CLAYTON, Mo. – St. Louis County reaches a settlement for more than $10 million-dollars with a St. Louis County police lieutenant in a major workplace discrimination suit.

This comes on the same day that St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar announces his retirement.

Chief Belmar says he is going to retire at the end of April.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says there is no direct connection between Belmar`s retirement and the lawsuit settlement with Lieutenant Keith Wildhaber.

But Page does say the settlement shows the county is trying to turn the page on a difficult period.

“This lawsuit acknowledges what Lieutenant Wildhaber survived in the police department and lets us move forward as a county,” said St. Louis County Executive Sam Page talking about the settlement of the lawsuit.

Wildhaber was awarded nearly $20 million last year in court in a workplace discrimination suit.

Wildhaber, who is gay, made the case that he was passed up for promotions 23 times.

The county has now settled the case for $10.25 million, the first $7  million is due in 60 days and the remainder is due in January of 2021.

Page says the county will pay for the settlement through bonds that the county will pay back over 30 years.

“This settlement will be paid through general revenue through a mechanism where we can bond and limit the present-day impact to our budget and maintain our normal operations of county government,” explained Page.

Earlier in the day, County Police Chief Jon Belmar announced that he is retiring from the department.

He has been with the department for nearly 34 years and has been Chief since January of 2014.

A statement from Belmar reading:

“It has been an honor to work with and for the women and men of the St. Louis County Police Department.The dedication, sacrifice, and bravery of those that work for this department is unmatched. The citizens and businesses of St. Louis County deserve nothing but the best, and I firmly believe they receive that from us every day.”

Page told FOX 2/News 11, “The Chief had confided in me even before I became county executive that he would consider retiring in 2020, so I think this has always been in his mind.”

The big challenge now, charting the future for St. Louis County.

“This is a tough time for the county but we have to recognize that discrimination isn`t right and by settling this lawsuit the county recognizes that what Lieutenant Wildhaber went through was not right,” said Page.

Page says the five-member board of police commissioners will choose the next Chief.

Page says although the next Chief does not have to come from within the department, there are many qualified candidates in the department and he believes that`s where the board will likely look.

Board member Dr. Laurie Punch issued a statement reading in part:

“I will be working with the Chief and the department to assure a coordinated transition of leadership and appreciate his commitment to our county. I am also committed to hearing the voices of our community members as we move forward.”

An exact timeline for choosing the next Chief is still unclear.

Wildhaber has since been promoted to run the county police department's new diversity and inclusion unit.

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