By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — Two female police officers have been awarded $235,000 in a settlement agreement reached recently with the city.
Lt. Karen Wilkes and Sgt. Susan Fett received $175,000 and $60,000, respectively, for their gender discrimination lawsuits filed against the department in 2007. Both officers contended that they were subject to retaliation and harassment following a 2000 discrimination filed by Wilkes that eventually was settled for $80,000. Wilkes and Fett are close friends, according to court documents, and Fett testified on behalf of Wilkes in the 2000 case.
Wilkes currently is on paid leave until her retirement in September, while Fett has been transferred to a new position as part of the settlement agreement.
“I am happy and so are my clients,” said attorney James Fett who represented both women and is married to Susan Fett.
“It’s no picnic when you’re suing your employer, but there’s a new regime in there, and my wife is looking forward to working with (new Police Chief Ronald Haddad).”
City officials have contended there was nothing illegal or discriminatory in the treatment the officers received, but felt that a settlement was the best route for the city and the department given the uncertainty of litigation.
“These lawsuits could have been ongoing distractions, but now the new police chief can focus on working with the department’s leadership team and officers to continue to provide and improve the high level of public safety Dearborn is known for,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said in a statement.
The settlements resolve two of three gender discrimination lawsuits against the city and the department, while one remains pending. Attorneys for Sgt. April Begin, who filed her suit at the same time as the other women, are in discussions with city attorneys to reach a settlement in that case. An agreement is expected in the next few months, city officials say.