By: Stephanie Southey, KOMU 8
Ashland Police Chief Gabriel (Gabe) Edwards resigned Tuesday night (12/5/23) as part of a settlement with the city.
Edwards’ attorney, Matt Uhrig, confirmed to KOMU 8 that the former chief resigned and will drop his lawsuit against the city as part of the settlement.
“He [Edwards] has resigned and the case has been settled to the satisfaction to all parties involved,” Uhrig said.
The settlement, which was reached Tuesday night during a closed session of the Board of Aldermen meeting, has a non-disclosure agreement and a non-disparagement clause, Uhrig said. The Board of Aldermen also canceled Edwards’ termination hearing, which was scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.
City Administrator Kyle Michel previously said the public hearing was the next step required to move forward with the lawful termination of Edwards.
Edwards was placed on paid administrative leave on July 17. At the time, Michel said the leave was related to a “personnel matter” and that any information related to the leave “will be released when the matter is concluded.”
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Darrin Haslag confirmed on Aug. 30 that the state opened an investigation into Edwards at the city’s request.Callaway County Prosecutor Benjamin Miller, who’s serving as special prosecutor, reviewed the Highway Patrol’s reports and believes Edwards could be charged with misuse of official information, a class A misdemeanor. But Miller says he can’t criminally charge the chief because of a delay by the Highway Patrol.
Uhrig said on Wednesday that he believes MSHP has not found probable cause to charge Edwards, therefore no probable cause statement has been provided to Miller. A lawsuit was then filed on Oct. 16 alleging that former Ashland police officer Tom Whitener was wrongfully fired after accusing the chief, whose name is redacted in court documents, of alleged misconduct. Edwards was chief at the time.
Edwards later filed a suit of his own on Oct. 23 alleging the city unlawfully removed him from his position as chief after he reportedly criticized the mayor on social media. In its statement, the city said it did not remove Edwards from his position, and that being placed on leave does not constitute “removal,” since Edwards is still a salaried employee. The statement affirmed that Edwards would remain on leave until an investigation into “grievances” brought against him has been completed.
An order to move Edwards’ lawsuit to federal court was issued Nov. 20, with court documents saying federal courts have original jurisdiction over the matter because Edwards’ claims include alleged violations of federal law.
Former Columbia police lieutenant Allen “Scott” Young has been serving as interim chief of police since July 25. He will remain interim chief until the Board of Aldermen appoint a new chief, according to Michel.