About the Firm

Attorney Brian H. Alligood provides top quality, aggressive legal representation to individuals and businesses throughout North Carolina. Mr. Alligood regularly represents parties in disputes arising from all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. Employment issues frequently litigated include claims of discriminatory hiring and employment practices, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful discharge, wage and hour violations, breach of contract and no-compete covenants, and employee benefits litigation. In addition to confronting claims of traditional employment discrimination, Mr. Alligood represents parties with respect to statutory rights and obligations imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act.

Mr. Alligood regularly appears in all North Carolina state and federal courts and administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the North Carolina Department of Labor, and the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

City of Greensboro Moves for Summary Judgment in Discrimination Case filed by Former Police Chief, David Wray

Former City Manager, Mitchell Johnson and former Police Chief, David Wray.  Photo credit:

For those of you who live in the Triad area of North Carolina, you may recall that in 2005, the City of Greensboro police department was fraught with allegations of internal racial discrimination.  The police chief at the time was David Wray.  Allegedly, Mr. Wray used an internal affairs unit to secretly investigate numerous black officers for alleged misconduct.  Furthermore, it was reported that a binder known as the “Black Book” allegedly contained photographs of black police officers.  As reported by NPR, there were rumors that crime suspects were sometimes promised more lenient treatment if they could identify black officers in the “Black Book” for misconduct.    

According to reports by the Greensboro News and Record, the former City Manager, Mitchell Johnson, met with Mr. Wray and the human resources director on January 6, 2006.  During that meeting, Mr. Johnson informed Mr. Wray that he had reviewed two internal reports detailing how Mr. Wray’s administration had investigated its own officers.  According to news articles, Mr. Johnson then informed Mr. Wray that he was being placed on administrative leave.  Mr. Wray subsequently tendered his resignation on January 9, 2006.

Mr. Wray filed a discrimination lawsuit against the City of Greensboro in 2009.  Mr. Wray alleges that the City of Greensboro violated his rights under the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1870, 42 U.S.C. § 1981.  In short, Mr. Wray alleges the city discriminated against him based on his race (white) in an effort to appease a segment of the African American community by publicly stripping him of his authority and forcing him out of office.  A copy of the complaint can be viewed by clicking here.

Section 1981 prohibits all forms of intentional employment discrimination based on race which are considered “disparate treatment”.  The prohibition against disparate treatment applies to hiring, firing, demotion, and failure to promote decisions, as well as to unequal pay and hostile work environment claims.  Proving a Section 1981 claim can be difficult.  A Section 1981 plaintiff alleging discrimination based upon a protected trait must produce sufficient evidence from which one could determine that the protected trait (race) actually motivated the employer’s decision.  See, e.g., Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 286 (4th Cir. 2004).   

More than four years after the complaint was first filed (and nearly four years after the Court ruled on the City's earlier motion to dismiss), the City has moved for summary judgment.  The City of Greensboro is asking the Court to summarily rule that Mr. Wray cannot prove that he was placed on administrative leave because he is white or that former police chief Tim Bellamy was selected as Mr. Wray’s replacement because he is black.  Instead, the City of Greensboro contends that the evidence demonstrates that Mr. Johnson placed Mr. Wray on administrative leave because of concerns over Mr. Wray’s truthfulness and leadership decisions.   

In defense of its actions against Mr. Wray, the City of Greensboro relies on a decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (the Circuit with jurisdiction over North Carolina's federal courts) holding that an employee's dishonesty is a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for termination.  See Curry v. Alamance Health Services, 1994 WL 242288 (M.D.N.C. Apr. 11, 1994), aff'd 54 F.3d 772 (4th Cir. 1995).    

In support of its motion for summary judgment, the City has included a transcript of the closed door January, 2006 meeting between Mr. Wray and Mr. Johnson.  A copy of the transcript on file with the court can be viewed by clicking here.   The City of Greensboro emphasizes that during the meeting, Mr. Johnson informed Mr. Wray that he was placing him on administrative leave pending further investigation and that Mr. Wray agreed that appointing then Assistant Chief Tim Bellamy as Acting Chief was an appropriate choice.  

This case demonstrates how even corrective personnel actions can sometimes lead to discrimination complaints, regardless of the plaintiff's race.  The case and its long timeline are also good examples of how protracted and expensive employment discrimination cases can become.  A review of the docket shows some 52 filings over the course of 4 years, which likely has generated prodigious legal fees for the City of Greensboro.  

Similarly, the plaintiff's counsel has likely incurred substantial fees over the course of this protracted litigation.  If the plaintiff were to prevail in the case, these fees would present an additional exposure to the City that could very well prove greater than the plaintiff's damages.  This is so because courts routinely award prevailing plaintiff's their attorney's fees as part of the final judgment in employment discrimination actions.  Whether this plaintiff ultimately prevails or not, it seems clear that the City of Greensboro will have paid substantial, costly attorney's fees and expenses over the course of a litigation that has already consumed more than four years of time.  The importance of experienced counsel capable of streamlining litigation and achieving timely and economical results in employment litigation matters cannot be understated.

Mr. Wray will have an opportunity to file a brief in opposition to the City of Greensboro’s motion, but has not yet done so.  We will discuss issues raised by Mr. Wray’s response once his brief is available, so please check back.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact me directly at (336) 333-6375 to discuss this post or other North Carolina employment law matters.  For more information about my Greensboro law firm of Sharpless &Stavola, please visit our website at