Fort Worth settles with Rainbow Lounge patrons

Posted on 24 Mar 2011 at 9:54pm
CASE CLOSED | It has been a year and a half since Chad Gibson was injured in the Rainbow Lounge raid. This week, the Fort Worth City Council approved a $400,000 settlement payment.

Chad Gibson to receive $400,000; TABC agreement not yet signed

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday, March 22, voted unanimously and without discussion to accept a consent agenda that included an award of $400,000 to Chad Gibson, the man who received head injuries in the 2009 Rainbow Lounge raid.

George Armstrong, another man injured that night, settled for a lower amount. Because his award was less than $50,000, the council did not have to vote on that settlement.

The two injured men entered into mediation with the city of Fort Worth and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Any agreement from settlement negotiations with TABC has not been signed. The state’s approval process takes longer than the city’s.

Don Tittle, the attorney who represented Gibson and Armstrong in mediation with the city, said, “We thought it was a fair resolution.”

Adam Seidel is a defense attorney who has been working with Gibson and Armstrong since criminal charges were filed the night of the raid. Those charges have since been dropped.

Seidel said that both Gibson and Armstrong would have preferred the events at Rainbow Lounge hadn’t happened at all.

“An experience like that impacts you for some period of time,” Seidel said. “You don’t just put that into a small box and put it away.”

Gibson continues to receive medical treatment related to his head injury. Armstrong had a rotator cuff injury and will likely face surgery.

“This will make finishing that easier for him,” Seidel said.

Jason P. Lamers, the manager of Fort Worth’s Office of Media and Public Affairs, sent the official city response. He said the council acted on advice of the legal counsel, and the intention was to limit the city’s financial exposure.

“This settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the city, but rather a recognition of the nature of civil rights litigation,” said Lamers. “It was city staff’s recommendation — and the City Council agreed — that, considering the circumstances, not only is this settlement the right thing to do, but it is also in the best interest of the city and taxpayers.”

Tittle wasn’t sure why the city included a statement of no admission of liability.

“We released all claims as part of the deal,” he said.

He thought they might have been concerned that since the two-year statute of limitations had not passed, someone else might come forward with a suit.

“But it waters down the good will,” he said.

And although Fort Worth, and presumably TABC, claim no liability for the incident, Tittle said, “$400,000 speaks for itself.”

Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, a group formed in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid, only commented on the progress that has been made since the event.

He said that this was the first time the city of Fort Worth had ever entered into mediation without a federal lawsuit being filed. He also said it was the first time Fort Worth had ever compensated a member of the LGBT community for unfair treatment by the city.

David Mack Henderson, also with Fairness Fort Worth, was at the city council meeting. He said that a number of reporters with TV cameras were at City Hall and requested interviews but he refused. He said Fort Worth’s LGBT community is moving on and that there was nothing to talk about.

“We’re just part of the city — the way it should be,” Henderson said.

Lamers said that you couldn’t talk about the Rainbow Lounge story without talking about the strides the LGBT community has made in Fort Worth.

“Fort Worth has made remarkable progress to become an even more inclusive city than it ever was,” he said. “That’s a credit to our City Council, our police department led by Chief Jeff Halstead and the GLBT leaders in the city’s workforce and in our communities. We’re very proud of theprogress that has been made.”

After the Rainbow Lounge raid, Halstead made significant changes to the police department by clarifying the department’s policies on conducting bar checks, adding an LGBT liaison and, recently, enacting an anti-bias policing policy to strengthen existing rules against discrimination by officers.

The council voted in October 2009 to add transgender protections to its nondiscrimination policies. The council also appointed a city manager’s diversity task force and has approved 14 of 15 recommendations the task force made, including offering domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Anable said that the city has worked closely with the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association to stage this year’s parade. Pride will be held downtown for the 30th anniversary making it more visible than it’s ever been, he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

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