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Ludwig, city reach settlement

Former police chief drops wrongful termination claim

After over a year of legal wrangling, the City of Hood River and former police chief Bruce Ludwig have settled a lawsuit Ludwig filed against the city.

Ludwig filed suit against the City and City Administrator Bob Francis after being fired as chief of police in June of last year.

At the time Ludwig requested $750,000 in damages against the city. He wound up with 10 percent of that in the settlement with the city.

Ludwig received a $75,000 settlement with another $52,000 for attorney’s fees.

The entirety of the payment comes out of City insurance through City and County Insurance Services of Salem.

“I feel like that was a reasonable outcome,” Ludwig said when reached by phone Thursday.

In the settlement the City did not admit to any wrongdoing in terminating Ludwig and Ludwig waived all claims to reinstatement or to seek further damages against the city.

Ludwig dropped $250,000 of his claims — directly against Francis — early in the suit process, and when the process reached the point of the final settlement offer or going to trial, Ludwig and the city’s insurance company both decided the settlement was acceptable.

“(The insurance company) made the call on whether to continue with this on whether to continue all the way to trial all the way to court, which is what Bruce demanded or to settle and they made the call to settle,” Francis said.

“We felt that while we had a good case, there were some risks for us,” Ludwig said.

While both sides felt vindicated in the final outcome, neither was pleased with how things turned out.

“I had a long and fruitful career in law enforcement and I really regret that I didn’t get to end my end my career on my own terms, and that’s too bad,” Ludwig said.

Francis also said he wished things had ended differently.

“Our management philosophies were incompatible and I wish that maybe that he would have talked to me a little more about it instead of going to the attorney and the newspaper,” Francis said.

Following the settlement agreement between the two sides, Ludwig’s suit against the city was dismissed by Wasco County Judge John Wolf, on Aug. 15. Earlier that week he received the $75,000 payment from the City.

Ludwig now intends to spend more time caring for his wife, Patti, who suffered traumatic brain injuries after being hit by a car two years ago.

“I’m going to concentrate and focus on my wife’s care,” Ludwig said. “I’m going to find in addition to retirement some supplemental income through working at home.”

Ludwig was placed on administrative leave in mid-May 2011 after clashes with Francis over scheduling in the department. Two weeks later he was fired, with the approval of Mayor Arthur Babitz and the city council, and replaced by current chief Neal Holste.

He served as chief for six years after coming from the Redmond Police Department in 2005 to bring stability to a department which had been under four chiefs in two years.

After being placed on administrative leave, he announced a run for Hood River County Sheriff, but dropped out of the race in January.

“I understand that the insurance company settled for a nuisance payment to avoid the cost of trial,” said Babitz in an emailed statement. “Everything I saw showed the City did nothing improper and would have won at trial, but when someone else is picking up the bill they get to make that call.”

Regardless of Ludwig’s career ended in Hood River, both sides are now glad to be moving on.

“It’s a chapter I can close and move on; it does feel good,” Ludwig said. “I feel really good about it.”

For Francis and the City, which has been dealing with multiple lawsuits ranging from appeal fees, land use decisions and personnel, having one suit off the table is a relief.

“We’re involved in so many right now, it’s good to have one iron out of the fire,” Francis said.

Neither side admits to wrongdoing in the final settlement, and the agreement stipulates that Ludwig will not attempt to seek future employment with the City of Hood River.

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