EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 5, 2013

Atkinson reaches settlement with dispatcher

By Alex Lippa

---- — ATKINSON — Selectmen approved a $50,000 settlement to police dispatcher Lynne Cunningham on Monday. Cunningham had filed a claim with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights earlier this year.

“These were actions that took place in the past,” Town Administrator Bill Innes said. “The town’s insurance company negotiated a settlement based on the town’s ability to win the case. Their perspective was that it was best to get it done and over with.”

Details of the claim will remain sealed, according to Joni Esperian, executive director of the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights.

“Complaints are only available to the public if it is determined there is probable cause,” she said.

Rule 219.04 of the Commission for Human Rights states, “No information regarding complaints filed, investigation of complaints, pre-determination settlement negotiations, or conciliation negotiations shall be disclosed to the public by any commissioner or staff member prior to issuance of a notice of public hearing after a finding of probable cause.”

Esperian said complaints remain sealed to protect confidentiality.

“Even though there was a settlement, because an investigation was never completed, there is always two sides to a story,” Esperian said. “Just because a respondent was charged with discrimination, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are in violation of it. It has always been the commission’s practice to respect confidentiality, when it is resolved through other means.”

Esperian said a settlement was reached before any probable cause hearing.

Innes said he would not get into any details about the specifics of the claim because it was sealed.

Cunningham has been with the department since 2008. Her attorney, Bryan Kerman, declined to comment about the case.

Innes said the settlement will have no effect on taxpayers.

“It will all come from our insurance company, Property-Liability Trust,” Innes said. “They brought in a lawyer and handled all the legal fees.”

The settlement will take seven to 10 days to be completed, but Innes said he is pleased to put this case in the past.

Kerry Pascetta, a spokeswoman for Property-Liability Trust, said she could not comment on the claim until it was ratified by the town.

“We’re happy that it’s over and we’re looking to move forward,” Innes said.

He said Cunningham remains an employee of the town.

“She has been and will continue to be a good employee,” Innes said.