County reaches settlement with former sheriff’s deputy

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A former sheriff’s deputy is expected to get an undisclosed sum of money from Rowan County as a result of a settlement.

Charlotte attorney Ken Raynor, who is representing Rowan County, this week confirmed a settlement has been reached as part of a lawsuit brought by former sheriff’s deputy John T Knight.

In Rowan County Superior Court, Knight alleged Rowan County didn’t adequately contribute to his retirement account.

According to court documents, Knight began working for the Rowan County Sheriff’s office in 1982. He was a sworn law enforcement officer — able to issue citations and make arrests —  until July 2004, when he was transferred to the jail, court documents state. Following his reclassification, Knight remained a sworn law enforcement officer in name. His job duties, however, changed.

Court documents state the county reclassified Knight to a non-sworn law enforcement officer for retirement purposes. As a result, Knight alleges he missed out on a sum of money exceeding $10,000, according to court documents. He missed out on an additional contribution only available to law enforcement officers, court documents state.

Knight retired in December 2013. In court documents, Knight states he attempted to work with Rowan County officials outside of court to receive money he missed out on because of the reclassification. He filed the lawsuit one year after his retirement.

Current Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten and former Rowan County Manager Gary Page have both been subpoenaed in the lawsuit. Neither, however, were in the top tier of county government administration at the time of Knight’s reclassification.

The case, however, appears to be nearing an end. Court documents filed on Oct. 27 state both parties — Knight and Rowan County — have reached a settlement.

Local attorney David Shelby, who is representing Knight in the case, declined to comment.

Raynor, the attorney representing Rowan County, said a settlement of the case does not necessarily mean Rowan County committed an error in handling Knight’s benefits.

“Several factors go into a decision regarding a case such as this, including different views on the policy considerations,” Raynor said.

The exact details of Rowan County’s settlement are unclear.

County Commissioners have discussed the lawsuit multiple times during the past couple months in closed session. A settlement agreement isn’t scheduled as part of the next county commissioners meeting. A closed session also isn’t part of the next agenda. Both items could be added to the agenda before or during Monday’s meeting, which will be at 6 p.m.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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