© 2022 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Ashland Settles Lawsuit With Former Police Chief Woolford

The city of Ashland’s insurer paid a six-figure sum to former Police Chief Lyn Woolford to settle a civil claim against the city after Woolford was removed from the job by former Mayor Gene Rhorer.

Details of the agreement are outlined in a settlement document approved by U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey in October and obtained by the Missourian through a open records request.

Under the settlement, Woolford received $112,636, and his attorney, Matt Uhrig, received $24,863. Neither side admitted any wrongdoing in the case, and both agreed to neither disparage the other through future actions or comments nor to disclose or discuss details of the settlement.

Woolford is also barred from working for the city of Ashland again, or even from applying for a city job.

In the claim — filed against the city, Rhorer and other members of the Board of Aldermen — Woolford alleged that Rhorer violated Missouri law when he placed him on administrative leave in February 2020 and that Rhorer discriminated against him because of his age.

The lawsuit said Rhorer had requested that Woolford send police officers to his home to remove his girlfriend, with whom Rhorer shared the residence. Court documents indicate Woolford refused to remove her because there was no threat of violence, but he did send two officers to keep the peace.

Rhorer placed Woolford on administrative leave Feb. 11, 2020. A week later, Ashland residents filled the meeting room of the town’s Board of Aldermen to show support for Woolford, who made an appeal to be returned to his job.

That didn’t happen. Instead, the Board of Aldermen in June voted 5-1 to replace Woolford with Gabe Edwards. The case also moved from circuit to federal court that month.

In August, Laughrey ruled against Woolford’s motion to be reinstated as police chief, noting that the aldermen had acted within their authority in choosing a chief and that his initial two-year contract, which in March 2018 named him both police chief and city administrator, had expired. The Board of Aldermen chose to end Woolford’s employment as city administrator in March 2019 but retained him as police chief.

The settlement took effect Oct. 29.

Woolford, who in December 2018 was named America’s Favorite Crossing Guard in a competition sponsored by Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx, has remained popular in the town, if not among its elected leaders. The $10,000 prize that came with that award went to Southern Boone School District for roadway projects.

Last Tuesday, Woolford was the lead vote-getter in a three-way contest for two seats on the Southern Boone School Board. He got 605 votes, 125 more than incumbent Kris Harmon, who lost his seat.

Uhrig declined to talk about the settlement, citing the nondisclosure agreement. Jeffrey Kays, the lead attorney for Rhorer and the city of Ashland, could not be reached.