KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In December 2018, the Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved roughly $1 million in lawsuit settlements, some due to discrimination claims.
"We have long debates over scooter fees, a few hundred thousand dollars, but look at what we are spending in legal fees," Councilman Quinton Lucas said.
A majority of the settlements made by the city were because of damage claims, but hundreds of thousands of dollars were also paid because of more serious allegations.
"I have real concerns, because we have a number of actions that deal with sexual harassment and racial discrimination. I know this is a big institution and a lot of stuff happens, but we need to make sure we are doing our best to avoid liability," Lucas said.
A number of harassment and discrimination claims made in 2018 were from the fire and water departments.
"You are talking about between $6 and $8 million set aside through the general fund that takes care of those and by and large since I have been here, we have never exceeded that," Councilman Scott Wagner said.
Wagner is the chair of the finance committee. He says there hasn't been a spike in claims, though more were dealt with last month.
Wagner says settling is better for the city in some situations.
"Sometimes, even when we have very little if any blame in a situation, the fact that in Missouri you pay all the attorneys fees, it actually costs us less to settle and move along," said Wagner.
The solution is mixed.
Lucas says there needs to be more training. Wagner is not ruling training out, but says by the time settlement agreements make it to council, recommendations on how to prevent situations have already been made.
"We need to make sure training is for people who are not sitting at their desks everyday, but those who find our ways into the field and deal with it from there," said Lucas.