County lawmakers approve $300,000 settlement

Published Jul 13, 2017 at 4:00pm

The Oneida County Board of Legislators on Wednesday approved paying out $300,000 for alleged retaliatory practices, bias and unequal treatment based on race, and wrongful death, among other things.

The original lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in 1999 by Bruce Helmer, who had been a sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office, according to documents.

He filed claims of race discrimination and retaliation against Oneida County and the Sheriff’s Office with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a right to sue letter. The lawsuit was then initiated.

He was allegedly disabled from work as a result of this discrimination and retaliation. Helmer died in January 2000, and James Helmer, the administrator of his estate, was substituted as plaintiff.

Also bringing the claim were James Helmer and Bruce Helmer’s children, Travis Helmer and Nicole Helmer, individually.

A pretrial conference was held June 21, and the parties agreed to settle in full satisfaction of all claims against the county, the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff’s Office employees named in the lawsuit.

The county’s outside lawyers involved in the case and the county claims administrator-adjuster all recommended accepting the settlement to end a legal action that was more than 15 years old.

Legislators voted 23-0, without comment, to approve the settlement.

The settlement payment comes from the county and an insurance company, said County Attorney Peter Rayhill.