News Local/State

Champaign City Council To Vote On $225K Settlement


For the second time in three weeks, the Champaign City Council will vote on a proposed settlement of a lawsuit involving the same police officer.

On December 1st, the city council approved a $25,000 payment to settle a lawsuit alleging excessive force by two Champaign police officers. One of those officers is among the seven named in a lawsuit that would be settled by a proposed payment on the city council agenda for December 15th. Only this time, it’s for $225,000.

The payment would settle Benjamin Mann’s complaint that Officer Matt Rush used excessive force against him in an incident in March of last year.

Rush has been the subject of several complaints of excessive force, including the one that the city council voted to settle on December 1st. In that instance, council members settled a lawsuit filed by Champaign resident William Brown, who was hurt while being arrested in June of 2013.

After the Brown settlement, the News-Gazette and other media organizations filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking more information on complaints against Officer Rush. Those documents were released publicly on December 10th. The proposed settlement in the Benjamin Mann case was announced the following day.

Officer Rush’s superiors in the Champaign Police Department had tried to fire him, only to have his dismissal changed to a month’s suspension by an arbitrator. Police Chief Anthony Cobb says Rush has been a model employee since then.

But several local groups are calling for Officer Rush’s removal in a news conference and public demonstration scheduled for just before the city council meeting.

People and groups signing on to the event’s Facebook page include Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery, the Champaign-Urbana chapter of Black Lives Matter and Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice.

Meanwhile, David Wickster, executive director of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, argued in a letter published in the December 14 edition of the News-Gazette, that the arbitrator’s ruling on Officer Rush was accepted by both parties.

“Officer Rush served his suspension and has not had a complaint against him since returning to work in the spring,” wrote Wickster. “We should all move forward and allow Officer Rush to continue serving the public in a job that he loves.”

CORRECTION: This story has been revised to note that city council members will be voting on the 2nd police-related settlement in three weeks, not two weeks. -- 12/15/15  9:42 AM.