Columbia Police Detective wins new trial in Appeals Court

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | 6:01 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A Columbia Police detective who unsuccessfully sued the city in 2003 will get a new trial, a Missouri appellate court ruled Tuesday.

Judges in the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled the trial judge erred twice in the original suit filed by Vance Pitman in 2003.

Pitman, who has worked for the department since 1982, was called to active duty in the Gulf War in the early 1990s. During that time, the department changed the way the retirement system works. When he came back, he stayed on the plan he had previously chosen.

Marvin Tofle, Pitman's attorney, said that his client was never clearly informed about the change to the retirement system.

According to the ruling, Pitman received a memo and had several informal conversations with other officers about which retirement plan would lead to the highest possible pay.

He told the court that he learned the benefits of another retirement option after a conversation with another officer. He then sued the city for breach of contract.

"The city treated him terribly, for someone who served our nation," said Tofle, "I can't understand it."

City spokeswoman Toni Messina said Tuesday that she didn't know about the court decision.

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