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Settlement reached in firing suit

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Richard Furr

Former employee dismissed five months after being involved in collision while driving police car on duty

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Town officials and a former town police officer have reached an out-of-court settlement in a federal lawsuit the woman filed challenging her firing.

Attorneys on both sides gave almost no details of the settlement. Julia B. Judkins, a Fairfax attorney who represented the town in the case, said the settlement contained no admission of wrongdoing by the town.

The suit by Emily Partlow, against Chief Richard H. Furr and the town, was dismissed at Partlow's request Jan. 6. by U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski.

Partlow, through her attorney, Timothy E. Cupp of Harrisonburg, sought an unspecified amount of compensatory damages from Furr and the town over what they deemed violations of her civil rights under the Fifth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The suit, filed in June 2011, accuses Furr and others in his department of "manufacturing a 'case' against the plaintiff to support her termination" on Aug. 30, 2010.
Her dismissal came about five months after Partlow was involved in a collision at East Sixth Street and North Commerce Avenue while driving her police car on duty.

The complaint states she was struck by another vehicle as she entered the intersection and suffered a sore neck that restricted her to light duty for one day. After resuming full duty, she continued to drive police cars without restrictions until she was fired Aug. 30, according to the complaint.

The complaint accuses Furr, Lt. R. Clint Keller, and a staff member in the human resources department of deciding to fire Partlow in mid-April, but refusing to notify her of the decision until Aug. 30.

In the meantime, the town gave Partlow a memorandum telling her that the investigation into the crash was continuing, the complaint states.

"The memorandum falsely intimated that the investigation was ongoing when in fact the defendants and Lt. Keller had made the decision to terminate the plaintiff Partlow's employment over a month before," the complaint states.

The town filed an answer, denying that Partlow's firing was illegal and also dismissing claims she "suffered any violation of her federally protected constitutional rights."

While refusing to comment on the specific settlement, Judkins said such cases are commonly resolved because of a desire on the part of both sides to avoid bleeding large sums of money from legal fees.

"Plaintiffs take that into consideration; defendants take that into consideration," Judkins said. "You'd be crazy not to in this environment."

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