Doreen Coleman, the mother of Randy Cox, holds a Black sign with the words "Justice for Randy Cox," and a photo of her son smiling with a orange shirt and gold chain. Coleman is wearing glasses and a black jacket with pink stripes.
Doreen Coleman, the mother of Randy Cox, holds a sign in support of her son at a gathering in front of New Haven City Hall in September. Jaden Edison / CT Mirror

The Elicker administration plans to borrow and transfer up to $16 million from the city’s latest budget surplus to cover the uninsured portion of a $45 million police-misconduct-and-paralysis settlement.

Included in the ​“communications” section of the agenda for Wednesday’s latest monthly full Board of Alders meetings are two proposed ordinance amendments detailing those payment proposals. 

Both pertain to Richard ​“Randy” Cox, a now 37-year-old Black New Havener who suffered paralyzing injuries while in police custody on June 19, 2022.

The city agreed earlier this month to settle a federal lawsuit Cox and his family filed for $45 million — an amount that Cox’s lawyers, including national civil rights attorney Ben Crump, have described as the largest police misconduct settlement in the nation’s history.

Both proposals were submitted by city Acting Controller Michael Gormany. They now advance to an aldermanic committee for further review before returning to the full local legislature for a final vote later this year.

One proposal calls for amending Appropriating Ordinance #1 for Fiscal Year 2022 – 23 (FY23) – which governs general fund expenditures for the fiscal year that ended June 30 — to authorize the transferring of up to $16 million from the city’s general fund to the so-called ​“litigation settlement account.”

The second proposal calls for amending Appropriating Ordinance #3 for FY24 — which governs city borrowing for the fiscal year that began July 1 — to be amended to authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds worth up to $16 million to pay for the city’s share of the settlement in the now-resolved federal court case Richard Cox v. City of New Haven.

As Gormany makes clear in a June 30 letter to the Board of Alders in support of both ordinance amendment proposals, $30 million of the $45 million total settlement will be paid for by the city’s insurance carriers. That leaves the city on the hook for the remaining $15 million, plus up to $1 million in the form of a ​“self-insured retention” deductible.

“The City anticipates making this payment through funds obtained by a combination of budget transfer and bonding, in a total not to exceed Sixteen million dollars ($16,000,000),” Gormany wrote. ​“Under the terms of the City’s insurance, we have a One million dollar ($1,000,000) self-insured retention (SIR) which is reduced by the costs of defense, and which we were obligated to commit before the insurance coverage would apply. Insurance will cover a total of Thirty million ($30,000,000) towards the total settlement of Forty-Five million ($45,000,000). We will be obligated to pay the balance of the SIR, plus whatever amount above Thirty million ($30,000,000) is necessary to reach the total payment of Forty-Five million ($45,000,000).”

The city’s most recent monthly financial report from May shows that the city could have a FY23 surplus worth around $10 million when the books are closed on the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Elicker told the Independent in a follow up phone call that that FY23 general fund surplus is what the city would transfer to cover part of that up-to-$16-million payment. The city would then borrow whatever else amount it needs to above the FY23 surplus transfer. He said that he does not plan to ask the alders to tap into the city’s $37 million rainy day fund to cover the costs of this settlement.

“The transfer amounts requested as of submission are indefinite at this time due to a number of factors: we do not have a total of defense costs so we do not have a definite amount of the balance of the SIR,” Gormany wrote at the end of his June 30 letter to the alders. ​“In addition, completion of year-end reconciliation and bond market conditions will determine the amounts necessary to be transferred through each amendment. However, the amounts necessary to be transferred through each amendment will be determined in the near future and before these amendments come to the Board for a vote.”

Key moments of the police arrest, transport and detention of Richard Cox.

The settlement payment plan proposal come roughly a year after police arrested Cox on weapons charges without incident at a Lilac Street block party on June 19, 2022. 

En route to the police station, Officer Oscar Diaz, the driver of a seatbelt-less prisoner conveyance van, slammed on the brakes to avoid crashing into another vehicle at the intersection of Division and Mansfield Streets. That abrupt stop sent Cox flying head first into the wall of the van, injuring his neck and spine. The driver of the van later called for medical help but, instead of asking for an ambulance to come to the scene, the driver proceeded to take Cox to the detention center at 1 Union Ave. 

There, rather than waiting for a medical crew to attend to Cox’s crumpled and paralyzed body, officers at the police lock-up accused Cox of lying, demanded he stand up, pulled him out of the van, placed him in a wheelchair, then dragged him across the floor into a cell. The case sparked national outrage.

Cox’s family, represented by national civil rights attorney Ben Crump, subsequently filed a $100 million civil lawsuit against the city, the police department, and the involved officers seeking damages for the officers’ alleged violations of Cox’s civil rights. That case has now been settled for $45 million. 

The incident led the city to update its training and police transport policies, requiring that officers ask arrestees if they need medical attention, seek care immediately if the answer is yes, and transport arrestees in police cruisers with seatbelts, among other changes.

Each of the five involved officers — Diaz, Betsy Segui, Jocelyn Lavandier, Ronald Pressley, and Luis Rivera — has been arrested and charged with one misdemeanor count of second-degree reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of​“cruelty to persons” for their roles in Cox’s mishandling. All five arrested cops have pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Segui, Lavandier, Diaz, and Pressley have also all now been fired from the police department for their conduct in this case. (Pressley retired before he could be fired.) During Internal Affairs (IA) interviews in the runup to their police commission disciplinary hearings, the four now-fired officers sought to justify their treatment of Cox by telling investigators they thought he was drunk, intentionally noncompliant, or otherwise faking his injuries after his arrest.

This story was originally published on July 5, 2023 by New Haven Independent.