MASON CITY (Globe Gazette) — A federal discrimination lawsuit by a former Mason City police officer against the city has been dismissed as a result of a settlement.
Maria Ohl filed the suit in November 2010 while she was an officer with the Mason City Police Department.
She claimed sex discrimination, religious discrimination and retaliation by the Police Department.
Under the terms of the settlement, the city denies any wrongdoing or admission of liability, and Ohl will receive $95,000 from the insurance carrier.
The payment does not represent any taxpayer money, according to a press release from the city.
The insurance company made the decision to settle the suit to avoid further litigation expense, the press release stated.
Now that the suit has been settled, the city can “finally move on to other things,” City Administrator Brent Trout told the Globe Gazette Friday.
“We will have some closure to the situation,” he said.
In a deposition filed with the federal court, Ohl claimed she was subjected to ongoing harassment and discriminatory treatment because of her sex and was denied training and promotional opportunities.
She said she had been repeatedly subjected to inappropriate behavior, including a male officer pointing an unloaded gun at her head and pulling the trigger, and several instances of lewd language and gestures.
Regarding the religious discrimination, Ohl said in her deposition that her church affiliation may have played a part in her being denied promotional opportunities.
Ohl is a member of Christian Fellowship Church where her brother-in-law, the Rev. Shane Philpott, is pastor.
In March 2011 the church was awarded nearly $85,000 in a settlement of a federal lawsuit Philpott filed in 2009 against the city, Police Chief Mike Lashbrook and Lt. Logan Wernet.
Philpott’s suit claimed both Lashbrook and Wernet made damaging remarks about the church.
The comments allegedly led to an Internal Revenue Service investigation of the church’s financial records. The IRS cleared Philpott and the church of any wrongdoing.
Ohl was fired from the Police Department in August 2011 for reportedly not following department rules and procedures regarding possible evidence in a criminal case.
Ohl appealed her firing to the Civil Service Commission. The commission held hearings in September 2011 and agreed with Chief Lashbrook that Ohl mishandled information she allegedly received regarding the 1995 disappearance of KIMT-TV morning anchor Jodi Huisentruit.
The commission ruled Ohl neglected her duty by not documenting possible evidence and, in doing so, interfered with an investigation, and that she failed to properly secure police records and misused mobile audio and video recording equipment.
At one point Ohl accused state and local law officers of covering up evidence in Huisentruit’s disappearance, an accusation that was denied by all the parties accused.
Ohl appealed the commission’s ruling in Cerro Gordo County District Court. Earlier this week that suit was dismissed at her request.
Ohl did not return a phone call from the Globe requesting comment.