Lawyer salary

Attorney for accuser calls $100,000 payment to ousted Stowe fire chief ‘a reward for bad behavior’

Stowe Fire Chief Kyle Walker. Courtesy picture

The city of Stowe has reached a $100,000 settlement with former fire chief Kyle Walker, who was fired amid allegations that he repeatedly sexually assaulted a woman while serving as a police officer, including when he was in service.

The deal was blasted Friday by an attorney for the woman who made the allegations against Walker.

“It seems like, from our perspective, it’s a reward for bad behavior,” said Christina Nolan, attorney for Rachel Fisher. “It’s hard to see a six-figure payout coming to an end.”

In addition to the $100,000 payment, the agreement changes the language the city uses to describe Walker’s departure as fire chief, calling it a “resignation” rather than a termination.

City manager Charles Safford said in December he had fired Walker as fire chief after failing to “regain the public’s trust”. Walker had been stripped months earlier from his city police job amid sexual assault allegations, but was allowed to stay on as the fire chief.

Walker challenged his dismissal as fire chief, resulting in the out-of-court payment. As part of the settlement, Walker waived his right to sue the city.

Walker said he had sex with Fisher on several occasions, including when he was on duty as a police officer, but claimed it was a consensual affair.

Vermont State Police investigated the allegations last spring and passed their information to Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault. He refused to file a complaint, saying in particular that there was not enough evidence to bring a case to justice.

The city’s nominating committee approved the $100,000 settlement at a meeting last month, as The Stowe Reporter first reported.

Safford, the city manager, provided VTDigger with the document titled “Agreed Statement” on Friday. The two-paragraph statement provides no further insight into why the deal was made or how the $100,000 figure was determined.

The final paragraph of the statement reads: “Kyle has submitted a letter of resignation from all municipal positions effective December 16, 2021, and it has been accepted by City Manager Charles Safford. Neither no other intends to comment further.

In addition to fire chief, Walker had served as the city’s health officer and director of emergency management.

Safford did not return a phone call asking for additional information and did not respond to emailed questions about where the $100,000 to pay the settlement came from.

Instead, he forwarded a link to the Stowe Reporter story, which said the money would come from insurance funds. The newspaper reported that the city should pay an insurance deductible, although the amount of the deductible is unclear.

VTDigger filed a public records request with the city on Friday, asking for more details about the payment.

Stowe nominating committee chairman Billy Adams did not return a call Friday afternoon seeking comment.

Lisa Shelkrot, a Walker attorney who signed the settlement document, provided her comments Friday to co-counsel in the case, attorney Carmen Ortiz, who was unavailable Friday.

The city manager’s initial decision last year to keep Walker as fire chief, despite being fired as a police officer, has led to weekly protests in downtown Stowe. The participants sought to have Walker ousted from a job that paid more than $80,000 a year.

Walker’s $100,000 settlement with the city is in addition to the check for $24,544 he received in December when he was laid off, covering accrued vacation, and a check for $782 to cover time that he worked the week before his dismissal.

The seven-page settlement document between the city and Walker said he “desires to voluntarily settle and compromise” any claim with the city. The settlement document also stated that both parties “deny having any liability or wrongdoing against any opposing party or any other person.”

Nolan, Fisher’s attorney, said Friday that the wording of the settlement, calling Walker’s departure as fire chief a resignation rather than a termination, was concerning.

“We believe the city had ample reason to fire Walker, both when they did and before they did,” Nolan said. “We certainly believe they were justified in proceeding with the termination.”

Nolan, while slamming the $100,000 payment to Walker, praised his client’s courage to come forward and speak out publicly.

“What she has done for survivors and on behalf of survivors is priceless,” the lawyer said.

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