Case Closed

The city settles with the Chasse family. What's next?

Mayor Sam Adams said Tuesday that the decision to settle a lawsuit by the family of James Chasse Jr. "brings to a close a very troubling chapter" for the city. But several loose ends remain.

The City Council must still approve the $1.6 million settlement reached by attorneys in a conference Monday, May 10. Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman said a council vote could happen as early as next week. And Adams said he's confident his colleagues will OK the payout, which would be the largest in city history on a tort claim.

The first $1 million will come from city money set aside for settling claims, and Saltzman said the city's general fund will not be affected. The rest comes from the city's insurance company, Chartis (formerly AIG).

The council's approval of the payout would open the door for the other half of the settlement agreement—the release of police internal-affairs documents and other records currently under seal in court. The Chasse family's attorney, Tom Steenson, said his clients insisted on the documents' release to help the public keep the police bureau accountable.

Depending on what those documents contain, their release could hurt the city as it defends ongoing tort claims against two of the officers involved in Chasse's death in 2006. A Washington County man sued the city and Sgt. Kyle Nice after Nice allegedly yelled at him and drew his gun in an off-duty road-rage incident last month. And the family of a 12-year-old girl whom Officer Christopher Humphreys shot with a beanbag gun last November has filed notice to sue.

Greg Kafoury, the lawyer in both those cases, said he'll look through the Chasse documents if they're released in an effort to help build his case.

Politically, the settlement also comes at an interesting time for two officials close to the case.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer, who is eligible for full retirement in July, could choose to exit the public stage without enduring a long and potentially embarrassing trial focusing on her bureau. The case was set to go to a jury in June, only months after two fatal police shootings inflamed many Portlanders.

And the agreement came one week before ballots are due in the May 18 primary, where Saltzman is seeking re-election against eight challengers. But Jim Moore, a political-science professor at Pacific University, says voters concerned about cops have already judged Saltzman's work as police commissioner.

"I don't think this has a big impact one way or the other," Moore says.

WWeek 2015

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