Melrose to pay former police chief $65,000

Jennifer Dreiling was fired as Melrose police chief April 20, 2009, after less than a year on the job.

Sharna Johnson

Melrose’s former police chief will be paid $65,000 and given a neutral job reference, per settlement of a discrimination claim she filed against the village and its former mayor.

Melrose officials initially declined to release the settlement terms, but Monday complied with a March 23 public information request filed by the CNJ, releasing a copy of the settlement release of claims.

The document was signed March 2 by Mayor Tuck Monk and Feb. 24 by Jennifer Dreiling.

According to the agreement, Dreiling’s separation documents with the village will list “voluntary resignation,” and any negative memos in her personnel files will be placed in the custody of the village’s legal counsel.

In exchange, the parties agreed neither side “intend to admit or allocate any responsibility whatsoever, in whole or in part for the occurrence or the injury associated with the occurrence,” and release one another from all future claims related to the case.

Dreiling alleged former Mayor Lance Pyle made sexual advances toward her and fired her when she turned him down.

Pyle, who also serves as Curry County manager, said Dreiling’s termination by the village council was legitimate and he made no attempt to date her.

Dreiling filed a discrimination charge with the state Sept. 15, 2009, five months after she was fired from the village.

In June, the state’s Human Rights Bureau found probable cause for sexual discrimination or retaliation, and ordered a formal hearing.

After a series of delays — with the hearing pushed from September 2010 to February — Dreiling’s attorney Eric Dixon said Feb. 14 she had withdrawn her claim in favor of settlement resulting in cancelation of a Feb. 15 hearing in the case.

Monday, Dixon declined to comment in the case.

“I have not seen the settlement agreement (but) I have been advised that it’s been settled for $65,000 and I have been advised (by the village attorneys) that I cannot comment on the terms of the settlement,” Pyle said Monday evening by phone.

“I complied fully with the Melrose insurance carrier and the village attorneys in this matter. I’m pleased for the residents of Melrose that this matter has been resolved.”

Pyle said he has not signed any documents relating to the settlement, which is being paid through the village’s insurance carrier.

Dreiling has said during the time of her employment with the village, Pyle invited her to working dinners and tried to use them to create romantic encounters, asked her to marry him several times and interfered with her attempts to date others by making it seem he was her boyfriend.

In June, the state board also found evidence Dreiling exhibited poor job performance, including missing a DWI meeting she was expected to attend and giving a false reason for not being there, as well as speeding in her police unit.

Dreiling was hired June 2, 2008, at a salary of $28,000 and served as the only officer for the community of about 700 located about 20 miles west of Clovis.

She was fired April 20, 2009.

The village has not replaced her, instead hiring off-duty Curry County sheriff’s deputies to police the community.