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NV City Pays Officer $525K For Suspension Over Social Media Posts

The city of Sparks, Nv., agreed to a $525,000 settlement with a former police officer who filed a federal lawsuit in 2021 accusing the city of violating his free speech rights by suspending him for contentious comments on his private social media account. George Forbush, a 20-year veteran of the Sparks police force, sought $1 million in damages after he was suspended four days for what that the city said constituted threats to Black Lives Matters activists and others, the Associated Press reports. A judge denied the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected its attempt to force the dispute into arbitration.

On Monday, the Sparks City Council unanimously approved the $525,000 payment to settle the First Amendment lawsuit along with a lifetime health insurance stipend, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. The city launched a disciplinary investigation based on an anonymous complaint from a citizen regarding more than 700 comments Forbush posted on his private account with Twitter, now called X, in 2020. His lawsuit filed in 2021 said the city’s disciplinary investigation had confirmed all of Forbush’s posts were made on his own time, as a private citizen and that “nowhere in the posts or on his Twitter feed did he identify himself as a Sparks police officee." The suit said, "A public employer may not discipline or retaliate against its employees for the content of their political speech as private citizens on matters of public concern Officer Forbush did not relinquish his right to think, care, and speak about politics and current events when he accepted a job as a police officer.”


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