WEST CHESTER — The former Chester County Chief of Detectives will receive a $126,500 payout as part of his settlement with the county over his allegations of being unjustly fired and discriminated against because of his race, according to a copy of the settlement agreement obtained by the MediaNews Group.
Additionally, Kevin Dykes, who is now chief deputy in the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, will not be reinstated to his former position, which he held until he was let go by the new district attorney, Deb Ryan, in 2020, a claim he made in his original lawsuit filed earlier this year.
The payment included in the settlement is significantly lower than the amount Dykes sought in January when he filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Philadelphia. He had sought damages in excess of $150,000, plus back pay for his position as Chief of Detectives, attorneys’ fees and punitive damages as compensation for the pain and suffering he claimed to have suffered. were caused by his dismissal.
On Monday, Dykes declined to comment on the settlement agreement, which he signed on July 20. He asked his attorney, Delores Troiani of Troiani and Gibney’s firm Tredyffrin, who could not be reached for comment.
The settlement agreement was released last week by the county’s Office of Open Records in response to a right-to-know request. Earlier, the county declined to detail the terms of the settlement, issuing a statement saying only that the county settled the lawsuit with Dykes without any admission of liability.
The county’s statement at the time also said Dykes voluntarily withdrew all of its allegations against Ryan, effectively ending its role as a defendant in the lawsuit. Nothing in the settlement agreement holds Ryan responsible for anything that was asked of him in the lawsuit.
In addition to payment, the agreement includes a “confidentiality and non-disclosure clause” that would limit public comment on the matter; restrain the county from “in any way” disclosing or communicating the terms of the settlement to the media or the public; “nor encourage another person to do so.” The clause limits who Dykes can discuss the terms with to his attorney and significant other.
“The parties wish to continue in a harmonious relationship with each other to better serve the people of the county,” the clause reads. “The parties have determined that it is beneficial to their common goal of fostering a harmonious relationship by limiting public comment” and communicating its terms only to commissioners, the county’s wage board, its human resources department and county financial officers.
County spokeswoman Rebecca Brain pointed to this “smooth relationship” as the reason for the confidentiality clause.
However, such provisions in settlement agreements involving government entities are almost never enforceable, said Pennsylvania News Media Association legal expert, attorney Melissa Melewsky. And even though the county eventually released the agreement after a formal right-to-know request was made, it also barred any county employees and others from discussing it publicly, saying its terms ” are confidential,” she noted.
“I think it’s problematic that he seems to impose a full gag order on public employees,” Melewsky said in an interview Monday. “I think it raises questions of constitutional rights for these employees.” She also noted that if the commissioners voted to approve the settlement and pay Dykes $126,500 of taxpayers’ money, they should do so while allowing the public to comment on the matter.
“It’s difficult, if not impossible, to make thoughtful commentary if the audience has no idea what you’re voting on,” she said.
Indeed, the settlement was approved on July 14 by a unanimous vote of the three commissioners, President Marian Moskowitz, Vice President Josh Maxwell and Commissioners Michelle Kichline without any public information about it.
The settlement was proposed at the commissioners’ meeting that month by county chief financial officer Julie Bookheimer, but she did not say what the litigation was about, who initiated it or what the terms of the settlement were. settlement – even to the limited extent the statement included that the lawsuit was dismissed against Ryan and that the county resolved the matter out of court with no admission of liability.
None of the commissioners commented on this and none of the dozens of people present asked questions about it.
The lawsuit alleged that Ryan fired Dykes, the first black person to serve as chief detective, unfairly and treated him differently from his white colleagues because of his race, and that the county agreed to the improper action.
“It’s racial,” Troiani said in February of the behavior Dykes claims Ryan subjected him to after she was elected to her position in November 2019. As a member of a class protected under the law federal, although Dykes served at the pleasure of the district attorney. and could be fired at will, he “can’t be fired for the wrong reason,” she said.
Dykes claimed that the County Commissioners Administration accepted Ryan’s actions and failed to act when Dykes complained about unequal pay he was forced to accept.
At the time, Ryan denied all allegations made by Dykes against her, with a spokeswoman for the office saying earlier this year that Ryan “does not tolerate any form of discrimination.”
Dykes, of Kennett Square, is a longtime county law enforcement official who began his career with the state police and helped anchor a homicide task force within the district attorney’s office under the leadership of former district attorneys Anthony Sarcione and Joe Carroll. Dykes was eventually hired by the state police as a county detective and later promoted to lieutenant. In 2016, former district attorney Tom Hogan made Dykes his boss. Chester County detectives serve as the investigative arm of the district attorney’s office.
Ryan, who had served as a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office until he left in 2017, ran for office as a Democrat against Hogan, a Republican who had served two terms, in 2019. She won the race after Hogan dropped out unexpectedly, and became the first woman to serve as county attorney general.
But according to Dykes’ suit, Ryan refused to meet him after winning the election until a few weeks before taking office, even though he reached out to her. In the suit, Troiani said “the reunion was short.
At the meeting, (Ryan) told him that she loved and respected him, but was firing him, “because you were in Hogan’s administration.” But the lawsuit recounts other instances in which Ryan took in other members of the Detective Bureau under Hogan, including a lieutenant who was allowed to continue serving for another year in order to boost his retirement benefits, and the sergeant she eventually appointed as new chief, David Sassa. These two men are white.
Ryan is also accused of removing Dykes from his race and justice task force, on the grounds that only one person from a department should serve on the committee, even if his department had more than one member, according to the pursuit.
A lawyer who viewed the settlement agreement said the idea that Dykes hadn’t received as much money as he wanted didn’t mean the deal was meaningless.
“The amount of the settlement – six figures – and the relatively short time between the filing of the complaint and the settlement indicate that the case of Detective Dykes may have had some merit and that there was potential for a verdict more off if the deal went. at trial,” said the attorney, who practices in county and federal court and asked that his name not be used so he could speak freely about the case. “But it certainly looks like a good and reasonable resolution all around.”
To contact editor Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.