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New Castle County settles sexual harassment suit

New Castle County Police Department

New Castle County settles a lawsuit over alleged sexual harassment within its police department.

The federal lawsuit was filed by six female police department employees in 2020. It accused former Lt. Col. Quinton Watson of years of harassment and abuse - and county officials of covering it up.

Now, the plaintiffs in that case have settled with New Castle County to the tune of at least $1.7 million.

On Tuesday, the County Council passed an ordinance to take the money out of reserves to “partially fund” the settlement. Another ordinance calls for up to $1.3 million to be used to pay attorney fees.

In a joint statement released by the parties, the county said it was "grateful for these brave women that brought this disturbing conduct into the light, and applauds their courage."

"The County acknowledges and is sorry that these women experienced such inappropriate conduct. The County remains unwavering in its commitment to eliminate inappropriate conduct in the workplace. The County is taking steps to expand its policies and practices in furtherance of this commitment."

In the statement, plaintiffs acknowledged that the county has taken steps to make the workplace more inclusive.

The county says it's revised its harassment and discrimination policies to ensure employees understand their rights.

It also says it plans to launch a phone line to allow employees to anonymously report workplace misconduct and hire an "outside monitor" to ensure complaints are addressed.

Watson was placed on administrative leave and retired from the police department in 2019. The county says the womens’ allegations were investigated and largely substantiated.

Read the joint statement on the settlement below:

Rebecca Baer comes Delaware Public Media from The Florida Channel in Tallahassee where she covered state government and produced documentary features for the series, Florida Crossroads.