Council members concerned over number of lawsuits against city

Several City-County Council members want city agencies to look at possibly new training and policies in order to try and cut down on lawsuits.

There are 200 active, pending cases against various city agencies. If those cases are settled, the money will be taken from the settlement fund. Of the 200 cases, about 90 are lawsuits filed against the Department of Public Safety and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Tuesday night, the Finance Committee decided not to vote on how to pay for a settlement in the David Bisard case. Fox59 learned, the proposal for the bond is to generate money to cover the cost of the settlement and then to recover it as tax revenue in 2014.

Council Member Ben Hunter raised concerns the number of lawsuits pending and whether there is a repeated pattern.

“Are (there) some training errors and how can we change that? How can we look at our risk and reduce our liability?” Hunter said.

Hunter said he does not question the validity of any of the pending cases. He wants agencies to look at making future changes and fixing any possible issues. He said taxpayers need to know about such things.

“You are going to care because if we have to bond out dollars or we take it out of regular operational expenses, it has the potential of reducing services. But also, if we can fix some of these issues by (implementing new) training and disciplinary (action), those are things that can drive down costs,” Hunter said.

Hunter said ultimately, it is cheaper to pay for the process than paying for a settlement. Hunter said he is pleased to see the Department of Public Works being proactive. He said he hopes other agencies will follow.

“I’m as concerned as they are,” Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said.

Riggs said they have been looking into this since October, which is when he arrived.

“One of my first initiatives was to really get a handle on litigation and look at litigation and why we’re being sued and what we can do about it,” Riggs said.

Riggs said they have a team looking at their disciplinary process. He said at the end of the year their disciplinary action will look different.

Riggs said the department wants to buy software that would help make improvements.

“We’re looking at buying software that flags officers that may be getting numerous complaints,” Riggs said.

Riggs said they are also looking at whether additional training may be needed.

“We also have an efficiency team that’s getting ready to be launched that’s looking at nothing but litigation. What type of litigation are we having and what are the main complaints?” Riggs said.

Riggs said they are ready to fight cases they shouldn’t be settling.

“Just last week, I got a briefing on probably six cases that we had been looking at that havebeen here for many, many years. We’re probably not going to settle many of those (cases). We’re going to go to court because we think that we have a good foundation to fight and we should fight because at the end of the day we’re fighting for taxpayer dollars,” Riggs said.