ITHACA, N.Y.—The City of Ithaca and Ithaca Police Department Investigator Christine Barksdale have reached a settlement agreement that resolves the legal battle over Barksdale’s termination.
The city sought Barksdale’s termination starting in January 2020. It was stated at the time that an investigator in the Ithaca Police Department had perpetrated a “deeply troubling failure” to investigate reported crimes, many of which were sex offenses. Police said an audit had found that over half of the 200 cases examined over 10 years showed little to no follow-up work done after the crimes were reported.
The announcement from the city did not name Barksdale directly, but sources eventually confirmed that Barksdale, despite having previously been a celebrated police officer, was the target of the investigation and the subsequent termination process. The city officially acknowledged that it was Barksdale earlier this year in an answer to a lawsuit she filed related to the situation. Barksdale argued in other filings that the Ithaca Police Department was a hostile work environment and that she was targeted for being a Black woman, that she was overworked and had requested help with her cases, but to no avail—though her claims to the Division of Human Rights were deemed unfounded.
Barksdale will be eligible for retirement benefits from the City of Ithaca, and will be allowed to stay on medical leave with pay until August 2022, when she will be allowed to retire (or before that time). The settlement’s terms were made available by the City of Ithaca after a Freedom of Information Law request, and the settlement agreement’s term sheet can be read in full at the bottom of this page.
Barksdale will retire on Aug. 16, 2022, — though if she does not, her employment will be terminated via “voluntary resignation.” As long as Barksdale retires by that date, she will be eligible to receive the city’s health insurance plan for retirees — if Barksdale does not retire by that time and her tenure ends via voluntary resignation, she will not be eligible for that plan.
On the official record, there basically won’t be any evidence of the alleged malfeasance, except, of course, for the victims of the crimes that were never solved and their stories. The settlement includes a stipulation that the city withdraws its Notice of Discipline to Barksdale, dated Jan. 8, 2020, and the preceding Counseling Memo that had been issued May 26, 2019. Additionally, neither side admits any fault for the situation.
Otherwise, Barksdale must not apply for employment with the City of Ithaca moving forward (other than elected office).
According to documents released by the city, the settlement was agreed to in early summer 2021 and approved by Common Council at its July meeting. City officials declined to comment for this article.
As a result of the settlement, “all charges listed in the Notice of Discipline and the grieved counseling memorandum were dropped and removed from her personnel record.” Another tenet of the settlement is that Barksdale drop her federal lawsuit against the city, which argued that the city had violated due process by confirming the situation publicly (despite not officially naming Barksdale) and “making derogatory statements” about Barksdale.
Barksdale’s attorney, in a federal lawsuit against the city, Ithaca lawyer Ed Kopko, said that the settlement represented a victory for Barksdale. The settlement was reached soon after the arbitration process began in June 2021.
“Christine Barksdale had served the city of Ithaca for over 20 years at the time of the accusations and could have retired, but instead, she demanded arbitration which is the process that she is afforded by contract,” Kopko wrote of the settlement resolution. “She did this at a risk to herself and her retirement because the City of Ithaca had stated that they were seeking to terminate her. She simply wanted due process.”
In the weeks after the situation was announced by the city, which subsequently called for complainants who thought crimes they had reported to the Ithaca Police Department to re-contact the department, several people came forward publicly in the form of letters to the editor. They described their experiences with Barksdale and the department overall when reporting crimes both sexual in nature and not. Among others, Ryan Griffin, a resident of Ithaca, wrote about the “gross negligence” he felt Barksdale committed on the job.
“At a time when we needed empathy, advocacy and support, let alone justice, we received only abuse and intimidation at one of the worst times of our lives,” read one letter, from local resident Laurie Linn, about the time she tried to assist someone in reporting a sex crime to Barksdale.