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Settlement paid to former Westover employee who signed letter calling for officer’s removal

The city of Westover paid a settlement to Christine Riley, a former administrative assistant with the Westover Police Department who said her position was eliminated after she added her name to a letter calling for the termination of former WPD officer Aaron Dalton.

According to Monongalia County Circuit Court Documents, a $90,000 settlement was entered on May 20, ending Riley’s March 2021 lawsuit, which named both the city of Westover and Westover Mayor Dave Johnson as defendants.

Language included in the settlement agreement notes it is a compromise of disputed claims and is not to be construed as an admission of guilt or liability by the defendants.

Riley was one of 11 WPD employees and officers to sign an August 2020 letter calling for Dalton’s removal from the force, citing violations of civil rights, threats against other officers, falsification of official paperwork, targeting and harassing citizens and using racial profanity, among other claims.

The letter was presented to Johnson and then-chief of police Richard Panico on Aug. 30, 2020, according to Riley’s original suit. As no immediate action was taken, the letter was then sent to the Monongalia County Prosecutor and local media.

According to the suit, Riley was called into Johnson’s office on Oct. 27, 2020, and told she was being discharged from her employment with the city because her position was being eliminated. Riley’s legal counsel asserted that claim was false and “simply a pretext for retaliating against her for her good faith reports of wrongdoing.”

This past April, the city of Westover announced it would pay out $1.1 million in settlements, plus additional legal fees, for a pair of violent misconduct lawsuits brought following incidents involving Dalton.

In January 2021, William Cox filed a lawsuit alleging he was kicked, punched, pepper-sprayed and falsely arrested by officers Dalton and Justice Carver for recording them with his cell phone as they drove by in a marked cruiser in August 2019. Cox received a settlement of $750,000.

Months earlier, on Jan. 1, 2019, Dalton’s body-worn camera captured footage of fellow officer Zachary Fecsko pulling Andre Howton out of his home, throwing him to the ground and striking him numerous times, resulting in multiple facial fractures and lost teeth. That encounter resulted in a lawsuit against both officers and Panico. It was settled for $350,000.

Dalton spent more than a year on paid administrative leave following the incidents before being terminated by the city.

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