- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Story County officials have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former employee of the county attorney’s office who claims she was unjustly fired and denied payment for overtime.

An order entered by Magistrate Judge Ross Walters in U.S. District Court on Monday said the county and Cathleen Vincent agreed to settle the case. Documents filed Friday indicate the case was settled for $25,000.

The judge’s order finds the settlement “fair and reasonable and adequately compensates the plaintiff for any back owing overtime payments under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

Vincent, a victim witness coordinator in the county attorney’s office, was fired in May 2011. She had worked at the county attorney’s office since 1997.

She claimed she was fired because she discussed with family members and friends the shooting of her husband’s cousin, Kevin Johnson, by a Nevada police officer in April 2011. Johnson died of the gunshot wounds.

She had been told by her boss, County Attorney Stephen Holmes, not to discuss the case. Court documents indicate Holmes’ office often works with Nevada police and he was concerned about maintaining a good working relationship.

Documents show Vincent made comments that were critical of the Nevada officer and posted a “Like” on a Facebook page of a friend that criticized the police.

She claimed Holmes violated her free speech rights by banning her from discussing a “matter of public concern” and that her firing was a further violation of her constitutional rights.

Walters, however, ruled in January the firing did not violate her free speech rights and dismissed that portion of the lawsuit and removed Holmes from the case. That left only Story County and the overtime wages issue remaining.

Vincent claimed she frequently worked overtime but was not paid when she worked over 40 hours in a week.

The county claimed she was a supervisory employee and exempt from overtime.

Walters also said in January that if the case had gone to trial a jury could find that well over 50 percent of her work was spent in non-exempt functions of assisting and coordinating victim and witness activities.

Attorneys for Vincent and for the county declined to comment on the settlement.

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