With an apparent settlement on the horizon, the Rice County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved an agreement that could absolve the county of any responsibility for a former jailer's legal fees.
The agreement, which runs until 5 p.m. March 31, would require former county corrections officer, James David Ingham, of Dundas, to dismiss cross claims against the county should the settlement with a pair of plaintiffs occur before that date and not to make similar requests in the future. If there's no agreement by then, Ingham is free to again pursue an appeal before the board, asking it to cover his legal bills.
Ingham, who worked for the county for five and a half years, was convicted in October of one count of misconduct of a public official, a misdemeanor, after being charged with injuring two county jail inmates in September 2019. In a federal lawsuit filed in September 2020, the former inmates allege their Constitutional rights were violated by Ingham's actions and those of other county jailers and deputies, and Faribault police officers who reportedly failed to stop Ingham.
Ingham's attorney, David Hvistendahl, was scheduled to appear before the board Tuesday, arguing that the county is obligated to cover Ingham's legal expenses. Rice County Attorney John Fossum has argued otherwise, last month saying that Ingham's behavior in those instances was “outside the course and scope of his employment and certainly malfeasance.” The county's insurer also denied Ingham's request.
In lieu of Hvistedahl's appearance, the board approved the four-page document.
Hvistendahl on Tuesday afternoon said he anticipates a settlement between the parties in the next few weeks. The agreement, approved Tuesday, was needed to allow the county to settle. The cross claims regarding legal fees was an impediment to any settlement, he said.
Hvistendahl pointed out that while Ingham is named in the lawsuits, any settlement really hinges on the county and city of Faribault, which have a far greater ability to pay than Ingham.
"He couldn't contribute to any settlement," said Hvistendahl. "He has another job, but he's just a wage earner."