County agrees to $1.2M settlement resulting from Busby fundraiser confrontation


policeBy City News Service

The county will pay $1.2 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by three women involved a confrontation with a sheriff’s deputy during a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidate Francine Busby at a home in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

Senior Deputy County Counsel George Brewster said the county did not admit any fault in the settlement, which was reached last week after several mediation meetings. Brewster said the decision to settle was in the “best interest” of the county, which could have faced a costly and prolonged trial.

“We thought it was going to be an uphill battle,” Brewster said.

The money, which will come out of the Sheriff’s Department budget, will be divided among eight people, he said.

The lawsuit, filed in December on behalf of Shari Barman, Jane Stratton and Pamela Morgan, named both the county and Deputy Marshall Abbott as defendants.

The run-in occurred the night of June 26 at Barman and Stratton’s home in Cardiff, where about 50 people attended a fundraiser for Busby’s campaign.

When responding to a neighbor’s noise complaint, Abbott allegedly grabbed Barman, 60, by the arm after she refused to give her age. During the scuffle that followed, Abbott used pepper spray on the guests.

Barman and Morgan, 62, were arrested, but criminal charges were never filed against any of the women. The District Attorney’s Office also cleared Abbott of any wrongdoing.

Sheriff Bill Gore issued a statement on the settlement.

“San Diego (County) sheriff’s Deputy Abbott responded to Ms. Shari Barman’s residence in response to a noise complaint by a neighbor, something sheriff’s deputies do thousands of times each year,” Gore said. “These calls are frequently resolved with little more than a conversation between the sheriff’s deputy and the resident. In this instance, this was not the case.”

“I am glad to see the matter concluded, but the settlement provides little satisfaction to the men and women of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, who regularly respond to these kinds of complaints in the course of their duties,” Gore added.

Busby faces Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, in the Nov. 2 election for the 50th Congressional District seat.