Somewhat ironically, Mr. Wray then 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.
Our February 21, 2013 post discussed the City of Greensboro's motion for summary judgment in the case against it by former police chief, David Wray. David Wray recently submitted his brief in response to the City's motion. As promised, a discussion of Mr. Wray's response follows.
As expected, Mr. Wray contends that there are genuine issues of material fact for jury determination as to whether he was constructively discharged because of his race and, therefore, summary judgment is not appropriate. A summary of the factual contentions he makes to support his claim of discrimination follows below.
Mr. Wray stresses that he began employment with the Greensboro Police Department ("GPD") in March of 1981 and was promoted to Chief of Police in July, 2003; the two chiefs prior to Mr. Wray were African-American. Mitchell Johnson was the Assistant City Manager at the time Mr. Wray was promoted and allegedly led the police chief selection at that time. Mr. Wray contends that the process of selecting him as police chief involved some discussion of his race. Mr. Wray also points to Mr. Johnson's evaluation of him in November, 2004 when Mr. Johnson noted that "[a]s the first Caucasian Chief in many years David and his leadership teams actions are observed to the minutest detail."
Mr. Wray maintains that he resigned without the enhanced benefits. Mr. Bellamy was officially promoted to the position of Police Chief shortly thereafter. As previously discussed, in 2005, the City of Greensboro police department, under Mr. Wray's leadership, was fraught with allegations of internal racial discrimination. 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. Mr. Johnson became the City Manager in July, 2005, during the height of the "Black Book" controversy.
Mr. Wray maintains that his actions were appropriate. However, Mr. Wray alleges that Mr. Johnson succumbed to pressure from the African-American community insisting that Mr. Wray be replaced. Mr. Wray contends that Mr. Johnson held a meeting with an attorney representing several African-American officers, the then City Attorney, Linda Miles, and the then Assistant Police Chief, Tim Bellamy. Mr. Wray alleges that at that meeting, Ms. Miles and Mr. Johnson actively solicited information adverse to Mr. Wray. Thereafter, Ms. Miles' office conducted an investigation of Mr. Wray and engaged an outside investigation firm to conduct its own independent investigation.
Mr. Wray contends that Mr. Johnson disregarded both the internal staff report that found no irregularities or discrimination in connection with the issues raised by the African American officers and the report ordered by the city and conducted by nationally recognized law enforcement professional Gil Klienlmecht that did not find irregularities in the department.
Thereafter, Mr. Wray alleges that Mr. Johnson removed certain personnel duties from him, immediately reporting same in the local media. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Wray contends that Mr. Johnson suspended him and took the "unprecedented step" of locking him out of his office. Mr. Johnson then promoted Tim Bellamy, an African-American, to the position of acting Police Chief.
Mr. Wray also contends that a number of African-American officers complained that they were discriminated against because of their race during Chief White's and Chief Bellamy's respective tenures. Mr. Wray contends that despite such complaints against those African-American chiefs, they were not stripped of any personnel duties, nor were they locked out of their offices. In short, Mr. Wray alleges that he was treated differently than African-American police chiefs under similar circumstances.
Mr. Wray also alleges that during the process for selection of his successor many publicly made comments explicitly or impliedly recognized race as a significant or qualifying factor to the position. He also maintains that the City advertised the position in the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the National Forum of Black Public Administrators.
Both the City and Mr. Wray's legal briefs correctly note that the ultimate question in every employment discrimination action involving a claim of disparate treatment is whether the plaintiff was the victim of intentional discrimination. Mr. Wray, however, stresses that unless no rational fact finder could conclude that the employer's action was discriminatory, then his prima facie case together with his presented evidence of pretext is sufficient to defeat the City's motion for summary judgment.
The complex factual and legal issues presented by this case are typical of employment discrimination matters, which is why it is of the utmost importance to engage experienced counsel to prosecute or defend employment litigation matters. 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 www.sharpless-stavola.com.