Atlanta water offer settlements for vehicle searches

The city of Atlanta will pay out thousands in legal settlements to water workers who were ordered to open up their personal vehicles so they could be searched.

Security at the water plants had been tightened in an effort to breakup an internal theft ring. But a lawyer for the employees said the city went too far in making the indiscriminate searches under a threat the employee could be disciplined for refusing to pop the trunk.

City officials said they do not want to see the matter go to court and have offered every employee a cash payout. The initial amount varies between $1,025 and $2,500. Some workers have agreed to take that, while others may hold out.

A key source said the department got into the mess because no one bothered to contact the city law department before starting the inspections. Once managers brought the issue to the legal department, they were told to stop the searches. By then, it had gone on for three days.

Attorney Harry Daniels said the program made national news embarrassing his clients.