BECKLEY – A former police officer in a Greenbrier County town is alleging officials used financial problems as a pre-text to engage in racial discrimination.
The town of Alderson is named as a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit filed by Todd Williams. In his complaint originally filed Aug. 22 in Greenbrier Circuit Court, Williams, 43, alleges the town discriminated against him when it laid him off citing budget cuts only to hire a new officer shortly thereafter.
Because he asserts claims of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the case was transferred to U.S. District Court on Sept. 30.
According to his suit, Williams was employed as a police officer until last September. The suit does not specify when he became an officer or his rank.
Regardless, on Sept. 20, 2010, he says he received a phone call from an unspecified town employee saying he would no longer be employed due to the "'perceived need change and because of financial position of the town.'" Three days later, he received a letter stating he was "'laid off by the Town of Alderson due to a reduction in force necessitated by economic conditions.'"
According to his suit, Williams, who is black, alleges that shortly after his separation from the police department, the town hired a white police officer "paying him the same or higher rate." The town, Williams alleges, not only committed race and age discrimination, but also violated state law when it did not give him a hearing to contest his termination.
The result of his termination, which Williams says was "arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory and politically motivated," has resulted in damages to his professional reputation, and financial hardship. He seeks unspecified damages, attorney fees and court costs.
He is represented by Lewisburg attorney E. Lavoyd Morgan Jr.
Along with its notice of removal, Alderson's attorney Johnnie E. Brown, with the Charleston law firm of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe filed Alderson's answer to Williams' suit. In it, the town admitted Williams worked as a part-time police officer paid an hourly wage, and was terminated due to a reduction in force.
However, it denied his claims of discrimination, and he was entitled to a hearing prior to his termination. Also, the town says William failed to exhaust all administrative remedies prior to filing its suit.
In a partial motion to dismiss also filed Sept. 30, the town maintains Williams failed to file a complaint with either the West Virginia Human Rights Commission or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission soon after his termination alleging race, and age discrimination. Since he did not receive a right-to-sue letter from one or the other following an investigation into his allegations, Alderson says Williams' cannot move forward with his lawsuit.
The case is assigned to Judge Irene C. Berger.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District case number 11-cv-692