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Akeley settles lawsuit with woman who says police department wouldn't investigate alleged sexual assault by county deputy

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AKELEY - City officials here have settled a lawsuit filed by a rural Akeley resident for a reported $55,000.

In a lawsuit filed in May, Kristy Barsch claimed she was sexually assaulted by on-duty Hubbard County sheriff's deputy Greg Siera. Akeley police chief Eric Klein, police officer Travis Carlson and the city were named as defendants for allegedly failing to report the assault.

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Barsch, a mother of two, had initially filed a $2 million lawsuit against Siera, Carlson, Klein, Hubbard County and the city of Akeley.

No criminal charges were ever filed against Siera but he resigned from the sheriff's department last spring.

The Akeley settlement with Barsch was announced in a prepared statement during a city council meeting last week; no further details were disclosed.

Mayor Scott Vettleson stated, "The League of Minnesota Cities' attorney, Clifford Green, and Akeley's attorney, Steve Bolton, have both agreed the settlement is very advantageous to the city. The money award is being paid by the Minnesota League of Cities trust indemnification fund."

In resolving the disputed claim, the city is "admitting to no wrongdoing or liability."

The city will be responsible for the $250 deductible. But deputy clerk Denise Rittgers indicated the settlement could affect the city's future insurance premiums.

Earlier, the council contracted with the Bemidji Police Department to conduct an investigation regarding the allegations against Klein. The status of the investigation has not been discussed.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled Sept. 29 in St. Paul for the remaining defendants, Hubbard County and Siera. At pre-trial conferences in federal court, magistrates generally explore settlement possibilities with defendants.

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