Vernal Police Chief Robert T. Downard has reached an out-of-court settlement with city officials under which he has stepped down, says City Manager Ken Bassett.

The suit, filed in February, alleged Downard's civil rights - along with those of four other city police officers - were violated by defamation.The suit stemmed from an incident in 1988 when a Uintah County Jail inmate, James Kimball, contended that Downard and the other police officers were involved in a burglary ring in Vernal in the early 1970s.

"An independent investigation conducted by the city of Vernal has exonerated Downard of charges made by inmate Kimball and Uintah County Attorney Alvin Nash has closed his investigation into those charges," Bassett said Thursday.

Under terms of the settlement, Downard ended 10 years as chief of police on Tuesday.