Duck pays over $300K in settlements that center on former town manager

By on February 24, 2021

Former Duck Town Manager Chris Layton.

The town of Duck has paid out more than $315,000 to two female former town employees and their attorney in settlements related to the conduct of former Town Manager Chris Layton, who resigned last July after being charged with assault on his assistant.

Layton, who faces an April 8 court date in Dare County District Court on those charges, was appointed the interim town manager of Plymouth on Jan. 11. The selection of new Duck Town Manager, Drew Havens, was announced in January and he started in that position this month.

Information provided to the Voice by then Duck Interim Town Manager Joe Heard indicates that one such agreement paid $98,060 to one former employee as well as $56,940 in attorney fees while the other female employee received $105,880 with another $54,935 paid by the town in attorney fees. One of the women who received a settlement was the alleged victim in the incident that led to the assault charge.

A third former employee, former Duck Police Chief John Cueto, received $12,000 dollars from the town with another $6,000 paid in attorney fees.  Cueto, who began working for the Town of Duck in 2015, retired five years later, in August 2020.

Heard said the North Carolina League of Municipalities, through an insurance program, reimbursed the town $170,000 in conjunction with two of the settlements, all of which were made in the second half of 2020.

The two settlements with the female employees came amid reports that Layton created an uncomfortable and inappropriate work environment. The larger payment went to a former employee who was allegedly subjected to sexually harassing behavior that ranged from text messages to touching, to the point that there was concern about her emotional well-being.

The other payment went to a former employee who had experienced forms of harassment in the workplace. Those allegations included instances when the former town manager threw items at her, a charge that is part of the criminal assault case as well. The two women also reportedly made an agreement to ensure that neither would be left alone with Layton.

The Voice, as do many news organizations, has a policy of not publishing the names of women who are alleged victims of sexual or other forms of physical harassment

In an email to the Voice, Heard characterized the payments as made “pursuant to agreements negotiated and authorized by the Duck Town Council.”  He said the rest of the details related to those agreements are “confidential” and declined to comment further, citing “confidential personnel matters.”

Duck Mayor Don Kingston emailed a comment to the Voice stating that, “The Council understands and endorses transparency in local government, but we are prohibited by North Carolina law from providing information about confidential personnel matters…But I can tell you that the Town Council and staff have been working very hard since this summer to continue moving the Town forward, and we are excited to have our new Town Manager, Drew Havens, to lead our staff.”

Kris Felthousen, the attorney representing Layton in the criminal matter, told the Voice that neither he nor his client wished to comment at this point, “since there are matters related [to these allegations] currently pending before the Dare County District Court.”

According to the arrest report on the July assault incident, Layton, now 51, was arrested in his office in the town’s administration building on July 15 by two Duck Police officers and taken into custody, transported to the Dare County Detention Center, and released on an unsecured $5,000 bond. The original trial date, since pushed back, had been scheduled for last Aug. 21.





  • Anc

    Wow this guy is the absolute example of white privilege. He was elected to town council in shady Edenton. If you have money to pay people off the misconduct continues. I bet I know who he wanted to be President.

    Wednesday, Feb 24 @ 2:47 pm
  • lippy

    This is an absolute disgrace that this guy was allowed to harass these women!!

    How did the Mayor and Town Council not know this was going on?? For 5 years? or was it longer? Layton was the manager for almost 20 years!! He harassed these women AND THE POLICE CHIEF!!! OMG

    The Mayor has been there for 10 years….if he didn’t know, he hasn’t been paying attention.

    The Mayor should resign immediately.

    Wednesday, Feb 24 @ 6:34 pm
  • sandflea

    Meanwhile, up in outer Duck ****…….

    Thursday, Feb 25 @ 8:39 am
  • Ray

    Lots of issues with Duck / Layton / ducks spending and management practices , but it’s ludicrous to bring “white privilege “ into it or presidential politics , mostly one man is responsible for this and its Mr. Layton , with the town at fault for hiring him ( and spending a bunch of money to find and hire him ) The town has over a 10 million dollar budget , , yet the Bike and pedestrian paths / crosswalks are way dark/ dangerous with people consistently being hurt through the summer. the boardwalk is awesome though) , not enough life guards & people drown and get injured , no beach trolleys nor beach access parking , they pour money into the ocean ( beach replenishment ) yet it all washes out a month later , bike path is dangerous with many areas of drop offs on its edges that have and will wreck the best of bikers ( I’m sure our local doctors are appreciative) they maybe have good intentions , but as the old saying goes “good intentions pave the path to hell “ . No one votes them out or even runs against them , so the mismanagement has been Earned by Ducks residents ( if not ducks businesses ) .

    Thursday, Feb 25 @ 7:06 pm
  • Travis

    …”The Voice, as do many news organizations, has a policy of not publishing the names of women who are alleged victims of sexual or other forms of physical harassment”…

    I would hope the Voice (and many news organizations) would have a policy of not publishing the names of ANYONE regardless of gender, who are alleged victims of sexual or other forms of physical harassment.
    ‘Cause in this day and age, that %$@# is everywhere.

    Thursday, Feb 25 @ 8:46 pm
  • Sasha

    Most of you know absolutely none of the facts regarding this case and yet feel that you have the power to comment and slander Mr.Layton’s name. Even labeling all of this as sexual assault allegations is ridiculous there was nothing sexual involved. It was not going on for five years, twenty, or even weeks before this happened. ONE incident occurred and it was taken out of context and now his reputation and life are ruined. Don’t forget that he was an outstanding town manager for TWENTY years and duck would be nothing without him. Have some respect for both the victim and Mr.Layton. The woman will go on with her life happily with some pocket money now while he has to fight his way back up. Shame on all of you.

    Thursday, Feb 25 @ 9:04 pm
  • lippy

    Shame on YOU Sasha for defending Layton. Re-read the article, there was more than ONE incident if there was texting and touching.

    I respect the women who came forward to complain about his behavior. There was obviously some merit to their complaints if the mayor and town council authorized settlements.

    The police chief was there for 5 years and they settled with him too!

    The buck should stop with the Mayor and Kingston should resign immediately.

    Friday, Feb 26 @ 9:05 am
  • Sean Mulligan

    Judge, Jury and Executioner based on a News article by some of the above commentators.That’s kind of a sad commentary in and of itself.

    Friday, Feb 26 @ 10:33 am
  • Mona

    Mr Mulligan,
    If you believe that it is a “sad commentary” to speak unkindly about Mr.Layton, then you are sadly mistaken about his character. You are also blissfully unaware, just like most people in Duck who choose not to see what is in front of them. Most people don’t care as long as their beach house is unaffected so they can come to Duck and vacation. Completely unaware and unconcerned about the people that keep their haven beautiful had to endure. The truly sad part is that the elected officials had to have known about him and turned a blind eye.
    They have to go!

    Friday, Feb 26 @ 2:05 pm
  • Sue Beaulieu

    As a resident of Duck I am appalled to learn that our town manager gave himself permission to force his inappropriate behavior on at least 2 female employees. As a sexual harassment victim from the 1990’’s , it was common knowledge in the office that this person was treating certain female employees in this manner. Given my personal experience , there’s not doubt in my mind that others knew about Chris Layton’s behavior. While these employees and our former police chief have received financial reparations, the root of the problem is obviously lack of accountability on the part of our Town Council. There are several long-standing members, including our mayor who must step down in order to renew any level of trust in our community. Our trust has been broken and more than monetary settlements are necessary to right this wrong. Our employees should always feel safe and respected while in the employ of our town. To say that I’m incredibly disappointed is an understatement .

    Saturday, Feb 27 @ 9:14 am
  • hightider

    Ladies in Plymouth will give him a beatdown if he tries that with them.

    Sunday, Feb 28 @ 3:32 pm
  • Employer

    It’s another sad day in the Town of Duck. Mr. Layton helped “deliver “ many high profile projects to the town of Duck, but that does not excuse his bad behavior. Nor does it provide safe harbor for the elected officials that were entrusted with the responsibility of oversight. Then, for those same council members to claim total ignorance to his bad behavior, when if fact it was an open secret in the town, is simply disingenuous. It’s time for new elected leadership that will not shirk from their duty to protect our employees regardless of how many high profile projects they “deliver”.

    Tuesday, Mar 2 @ 8:12 am