Settlement reached in former Melrose police chief case

Dreiling

Sharna Johnson

A confidential settlement has been reached in a discrimination case launched by a former Melrose police chief against the Village of Melrose and former Mayor Lance Pyle.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions confirmed Monday it was notified Friday the parties had reached an agreement, according to spokeswoman Joy Forehand.

She said it is not unusual for a human rights case to reach an agreement in advance of formal proceedings.

“Any time a complaint is filed and it is scheduled to go to a hearing, they (the hearing officer) can award damages just like a court can,” she said.

“(Because of that), as soon as the charging party files, they are given the opportunity for mediation and so there’s always a possibility for a settlement, like there was in this case.”

Forehand said she had no other details on the settlement.

Portales attorney Eric Dixon, representing Jennifer Dreiling in the case, declined to comment on any aspect of the settlement, referring to it as confidential.

Dixon, who replaced attorney Dan Lindsey in January, said a hearing before the state’s Human Rights Bureau scheduled for today and Wednesday in Clovis is canceled because of the agreement.

Dreiling alleged Pyle made sexual advances toward her and fired her when she turned him down.

Pyle, who also serves as Curry County manager, said Dreiling’s termination was legitimate and he made no attempt to date her.

Based on previous comments made by her attorney, Dreiling was seeking reinstatement and back-pay.

In June, the state’s Human Rights Bureau found probable cause for sexual discrimination or retaliation, and ordered a formal hearing.

Monday, Pyle said he has not been able to reach his attorney and declined comment, referring inquiries to Albuquerque attorney Greg Biehler.

Attempts to reach Biehler for comment were unsuccessful.

Melrose Mayor Tuck Monk said no one has notified him of a settlement.

“I’ve received nothing on it. Until I receive some notification from my attorney, I can’t comment on it,” he said Monday.

Dreiling was hired June 2, 2008, at a salary of $28,000 and served as the only officer for the community of about 700 that lies about 20 miles west of Clovis.

She was fired April 20, 2009. The village has not replaced her, instead hiring off-duty Curry County sheriff’s deputies to police the community.

Dreiling’s discrimination complaint was filed in September 2009.