CARSON CITY— The state Board of Examiners agreed Tuesday to pay $2 million to the husband of a woman killed in an accident involving a Las Vegas police officer’s spouse.
Without comment, board members Gov. Jim Gibbons, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller agreed to make the payment to Michael Delew.
His wife, Erin Rae Delew, was killed in 1994 when her bicycle was struck by a car driven by Janet Kathleen Wagner, the spouse of a Las Vegas officer. An investigation by Las Vegas police and the Nevada Highway Patrol concluded that Wagner’s driving was not the cause of Erin Delew’s death.
Michael Delew challenged those findings all the way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that police conspired to cover up the true cause of the accident, according to court documents.
Court records also show that Delew contended Wagner had been speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol. He alleged that she was allowed to leave the accident scene and was not tested for alcohol until two hours later. He also said police deliberately failed to preserve evidence, such as skid marks and debris.
Board members were told by lawyers that if they did not agree to the $2 million settlement, a jury could decide to award Delew even more later.
The $2 million will come from a state tort claims fund. The award is one of the largest in state history.
After the payment, $2.8 million will remain in the state tort claims fund. State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said he will ask the Legislature for $2 million to replenish the fund, which he said should not drop below $4 million.
Two years ago, Las Vegas police agreed to pay $1.48 million to settle their portion of the federal lawsuit.
That amount, approved by the Metropolitan Police Department Committee on Fiscal Affairs in March 2007, was the largest legal settlement in the agency’s history.
Sheriff Doug Gillespie said at the time that the department settled to avoid a potential jury verdict costing millions more. Agency leaders also worried about public perception if a jury found their officers guilty of protecting their own, he said.
Reporter Brian Haynes contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.