A man arrested and later exonerated for theft of a public document accepted a $25,000 offer Sept. 27 to settle his federal lawsuit against the Town of Dewey Beach, the mayor, a police officer and a former town official.
Jeffrey Smith filed his lawsuit Feb. 21 against Mayor TJ Redefer, Sgt. Cliff Dempsey and former audit committee Chair Larry Silver, stating his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested Aug. 10, 2018.
Smith was arrested after he left an audit committee meeting with a draft financial audit report distributed and discussed during the public meeting. Several other people, including two reporters, left the meeting with the same document but were not charged with theft.
Smith was exonerated Oct. 4, 2018, when prosecutors withdrew charges for lack of prosecutorial merit. Smith attorney Steve Norman said the town offered an acceptable compensation. “It was a pretty clear win,” Norman said. “We’re very pleased with it.”
Herbert Mondros, attorney for Redefer, Dempsey and Silver, submitted the offer of $25,000, plus any reasonable court costs, Sept. 26, to settle all claims against the defendants.
Smith said he was pleased to learn the town accepted responsibility.
“With transparency key to First Amendment rights, I’m also pleased that no confidentiality clauses were part of the conclusion of this case,” he said. “I am optimistic that this is an indication of a more civil Dewey Beach, and that probable cause will be established before making an arrest in the future. The respect for individual rights of its citizens will make the Dewey way of life better and happier.”
Redefer said town officials consulted with attorneys and [insurance] carriers, and decided to make an offer of judgment to resolve the case and avoid further litigation.
“This was a nuisance case,” Redefer said. “We now look forward to focusing all of our time and efforts on the issues that surround the citizens of Dewey Beach. We considered many factors in making the offer of judgment, including Mr. Smith’s March 5, 2019, promise quoted in the Dover Post that ‘There is no monetary reward to myself, whatever the outcome. All resources will stay in Dewey for the betterment of the town.’”
Dempsey and Silver could not be reached for comment.