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Commissioners approve final sheriff’s deputy settlement deal

County Commissioners on Monday finalized a lawsuit settlement with a former sheriff’s deputy and made significant changes to retirement policies.

Worth up to $40,000, the settlement deal provides former sheriff’s deputy John Knight with money he missed out on after his December 2013 retirement. Knight was a deputy from 1982 until 2004, when he was moved to the jail. Although he maintained certifications necessary to be a sworn law enforcement officer, Knight was reclassified to a non-sworn officer classification for pay purposes.

The reclassification meant Knight missed out on an additional 401-k contribution and a retirement allowance only provided to sworn law enforcement officers.

Commissioners’ vote to approve the settlement deal came with no discussion because it appeared on the consent agenda.

The settlement agreement comes after months of private discussion among commissioners in closed session. As part of the final deal, Rowan County will dish out $11,000 by Dec. 15 and another $11,000 by Jan. 15. Additional payments included in the settlement are another lump sum of $2,960.35 and bi-weekly payments of $592.07.

To go with the settlement deal, county commissioners approved a policy recognizing 11 county employees as sworn law enforcement officers, giving them access to an increase in 401-k contributions and the special retirement allowance. By approving a number of policy changes, commissioners also gave themselves authority to declare certain law enforcement officers eligible for the special benefits.

A third item related to the settlement deal included paying former sheriff’s deputy Thomas Lane one lump sum payment of $5,554.41. James Ferree, another former deputy, will receive a lump sum payment of $1,748.22 and nine bi-weekly payments of $373.79.

County attorney Jay Dees said Lane, Ferree and Knight were all in similar situations. Knight was the only one among the three who was involved in the suit.

Dees said Lane and Ferree received money because they retired within the previous two years — a retroactive time period decided by commissioners.

In other business from Monday’s commissioners meeting:

• Rowan County Commissioners unanimously re-elected Greg Edds as chairman and Jim Greene as vice chairman.

• Commissioners approved constructions documents for a new Emergency Medical Services station in Rockwell.

County manager Aaron Church said Rowan should send out a request for bids on construction by Jan. 12, open bids in early February, award contracts in March and issue a notice to proceed on March 22.

Church estimated the EMS station in Rockwell should be complete by Sept. 20.

• Commissioners approved a fee for a test that would examine municipal water wells for heavy metals.

Specifically, the test kits would analyze well water for vanadium and hexavalent chromium. Both elements were previously found in tests near Buck Steam Station’s coal ash ponds. It would cost $150 to test for both elements. The tests would be offered through the Environmental Health division of the Health Department. They were developed by North Carolina’s State Laboratory of Public Health.

• Commissioners picked Charlotte-based firm McAdams to oversee a parks and recreation master plan.

• Rowan County received presentations from companies seeking to oversee a sports complex master plan.

The two companies were Victus Advisors, based in Utah, and Johnson Consulting, based in Chicago.

The sports complex master plan is separate from the parks and recreation master plan.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron 704-797-4246.




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