GREENFIELD — Having already spent $50,000 in legal fees, the city has opted to settle a lawsuit with former Sheriff Bud Gray instead of taking the case to trial.
Officials declined to disclose the settlement amount, pending additional action expected by the court in the next 60 days, but city attorney Tom Billings said the city’s insurance company offered a financial settlement at a recent mediation conference.
Gray, along with his wife, Jeannine Gray, sued the city, as well as the Greenfield Police Department and Chief John Jester, in 2012, almost two years after then-Sheriff Bud Gray was arrested amid allegations he used department funds to pay personal bills.
The case against Gray was later dropped, with a special prosecutor citing a lack of credible evidence and witnesses to pursue charges.
Gray would go on to claim he was maliciously prosecuted, adding that Jester made unfair statements about him to the media even after the prosecutor declined to move forward.
It is unclear how much, if any, of the settlement amount will actually make it into the Grays’ pockets. The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2011, with the petition showing Gray’s liabilities outnumbering his assets by about $156,000.
Court documents filed this week indicate the city is awaiting approval of the settlement from the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court, in turn, is expected to collect money from the settlement.
Billings said the city’s $50,000 deductible for defending itself against a lawsuit had already been met, and the city’s insurance company recommended settling the case to avoid the trial scheduled to start next week.
“The city theoretically could have vetoed it, but it was the insurance company’s call, and we went along with it,” he said.
It’s difficult to determine how long that trial would have lasted or what the city would have wracked up in legal fees during the course of it.
Court documents show the Grays had listed 58 potential witnesses to call to testify.
Jester, who was present at Gray’s arrest and expected to testify, declined to comment on the settlement.
Gray’s lawsuit accused Jester of pursuing criminal charges with the purpose of “harassing and maliciously injuring” Gray. It called the criminal case “clearly frivolous, unreasonable or groundless.”
Gray’s lawsuit focused on Jester’s statements to media outlets regarding the case, including that Gray’s arrest would be “a huge black eye for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, which has a lot of good officers,” the complaint states.
Gray cited Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler’s report to the court dismissing the case against Gray, then added that on the same day the report was filed, “… Jester stated to the print and television media that Sheriff Gray had committed theft and that his investigation proved it.”
Jester was among multiple law enforcement officials who called for a new special prosecutor after Sigler dropped the case.
Gray could not be reached for comment.