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County agrees to pay $10 million to gay police lieutenant who said he was told to tone down his gayness

This will allow the county to move forward

Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

St. Louis County has agreed to a $10.25 million settlement with St. Louis County Police Lt. Keith Wildhaber, who is gay.

A brief history?

In October, a jury awarded $19 million to the officer who said that he was told to "tone down" his gayness and insisted that he was passed over for promotion on 23 separate occasions because of his sexuality.

Wildhaber opted to settle for $10.25 million because "each side had reason to negotiate after the verdict because Wildhaber could keep a larger share of the award by settling."

Just hours after the agreement was finalized, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar announced his retirement.

Belmar promoted Wildhaber from sergeant to lieutenant in December, and placed him at the head of a brand-new diversity and inclusion unit.

What are the details of the settlement?

On Monday, county executive Sam Page said the settlement will allow the county to "move forward."

“I think it's important to recognize that this sends a message to everyone in county government and to all of our employers in the St. Louis region, that discrimination will not be tolerated," Page added.

In his initial 2017 legal complaint, Wildhaber said that a county board of police commissioners member told him, "The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt [i.e., get a promotion], you should tone down your gayness."

The board member, however, denied ever making such a remark.

In October, the Washington Post reported that Wildhaber — an Army veteran who has been with the department since 1994 — worked his way from patrolman to sergeant in 2011.

Wildhaber filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016, but says that he was transferred from a nearby precinct to one about 27 miles away from his home and received a less-than-optimal shift.

You can read more background on the case here.

What else?

County executive Page revealed that former Police Chief Belmar's retirement was "not a condition of the settlement" and that the former chief previously intended to retire in 2020.

Page added, "This is an opportunity for our department to move forward and to continue to make the progress that has been made and to stay focused on my ... goals for our police department, which is first to keep us safe and second to respect all people."

One last thing…
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