City denies GPD racial discrimination allegation in “strongest possible terms”

SHEILA MATHEWS :::

Two former officers of the Griffin Police Department – Dwayne Jones and Terry Brock – have retained legal counsel and allege city officials wrongfully terminated their employment based on racial discrimination. Both long-term employees of the city of Griffin, their employment was terminated Jan. 31 as part of the GPD restructuring recommended by Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith and approved Dec. 10 by the Griffin Board of Commissioners.
The restructuring, which Smith and commissioners have said resulted from the desire to clean up the city while also reducing the GPD budget, resulted in the elimination of two majors’ positions and two captains’ positions; the creation of a separate director of Public Safety position that will be filled by now GPD Chief Frank Strickland, who is the current public safety director; the creation of a Code Enforcement officer’s position; the hiring of a new police chief; and the reassignment of the Solid Waste Department’s Environmental Compliance Officer to Code Enforcement.
According to Jones’ and Brock’s attorneys, Ed Buckley and Eleanor Attwood, the decision to eliminate their clients’ positions was based on racial discrimination, as they are both white and the two officers that retained their positions – Homer Daniel, who was reassigned from the rank of major to captain, and Capt. Donald Britt – are black.
Smith on Feb. 28 received a letter of demand from Attwood, which laid out Jones’ and Brock’s assertions of racial discrimination.
“Terry Brock was a 32-year employee of the city of Griffin Police Department. He ultimately rose to the level of major in 2007. His service record is replete with accolades and commendations. Most notably, Mr. Brock earned a Medal of Honor when he saved citizens’ lives in the midst of a bank explosion. Dwayne Jones was a 27-year employee of the department. He served as a captain since 2001. Mr. Jones was the only leader in the department that trained at the FBI Academy, a notable accomplishment among law enforcement. Despite their qualifications and accomplishments, the city somehow selected these two gentlemen for termination when downsizing the department. Mr. Brock and Mr. Jones share two common traits: 1) they are more qualified than their black counterparts who retained their jobs; and 2) they are white,” Attwood wrote.
In addition, the letter goes on to state the Police Department restructuring violated the city’s personnel policy, specifically section 6.4 which states, “Should it become necessary to reduce the number of employees within a department, such employees shall be laid off on the basis of a combination of the following factors: seniority and classification, years of service with the city of Griffin, performance of a critical skill and job performance over the past three years.”
Based on this city personnel policy, Buckley and Attwood allege Jones and Brock should not have been selected for termination.
Information obtained by The Grip through an Open Records request indicates that Brock and Jones did have seniority over Daniel and Britt, with Brock having been hired Sept. 13, 1981, while Daniel was hired March 25, 1984.
Jones was initially hired Aug. 23, 1981, but temporarily resigned employment Sept. 2, 1984. He returned to the GPD July 30, 1989, while Britt was hired April 29, 1990.
With regard to rank classification, Jones was promoted to the rank of captain prior to Britt, but Daniel reached the rank of major prior to Brock.
The Grip also analyzed the effect the restructuring had on the GPD budget, with the Open Records request indicated the officers’ salaries, as of Oct. 1, 2013, ranged from $75,713.56 for Brock to $70,484.96 for Daniel.
However, when comparing the total cost of employment for the two majors, which includes all benefits and employment expenses, the city’s Human Resources records indicate that Daniel came in with a higher cost of employment at $96,036.37 while Brock’s was $94,390.33.
A comparison of the two captains’ salaries on Oct. 1, 2013, shows Jones earned $63,136.58 while Britt earned $63,072.36.
However, as with the case with the majors – Brock and Daniel – the total cost of employment also indicated the captain that was retained – Britt – came in higher at $87,648.46 compared to Jones’ $83,442.
“After the restructuring, the only men left standing were black,” Attwood wrote. “There can be no other explanation for those decisions than a racial preference. Bear in mind that the law does not allow for a government to prefer employees based on race even when those preferences are fueled by the populace it governs.”
Atwood’s letter listed Jones’ and Brock’s demands which include a lump sum payment of $600,000; reinstatement of Mr Jones and Mr. Brock’s positions prior to the adverse employment actions at issue, with full retirement and other benefits and back pay retroactive to their termination dates; mutural, global releases; mutual non-disparagement provisions; and mutual confidentiality as to the terms of settlement to the extent permitted by the Georgia Open Records Act.
She said this offer would remain on the table only 14 days and that should the city opt not to come forward with a “meaningful counteroffer” during that time, charges of racial discrimination will be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Through a separate Open Records request, The Grip on Friday obtained the city’s legal response to Jones’ and Brock’s demands.
Dated March 13, R. Read Gignilliat, an attorney with the firm of Elarbee-Thompson, which is representing the city via its municipal insurance carrier, the letter states, “As an initial matter, the assertion that your clients’ separations from employemnt were racially motivated is denied in the strongest possible terms. You (presumably) do not know Kenny Smith, but your clients certainly do, and I am confident that they know better. It is understandable that they would be angry with Mr. Smith. It can also be presumed that if faced with the same decisions in restructuring the department, they would have selected positions other than their own for elimination. But this in no way warrants their fixating on the race (or sex, religion, national origin, age, etc.) of the officers holding those positions and claiming that Mr. Smith violated their federal civil rights because they are of a different race (or sex, religion, national origin, age, etc.).”
Gignilliat went on to defend the manner in which Smith underwent the restructuiring decision making process, and to summarily dismiss Jones’ and Brock’s demands.
“In view of the foregoing, your clients’ settlement demands are rejected. While the city likely would not be averse to a reasonable compromise that would allow it to avoid the unfortunate disruption and distraction of litigation, the excessive nature of your clients’ demands makes clear that negotiations would not be productive. As such, I have not been authorized to present a counteroffer,” Gignilliat stated. “It is our genuine hope that it does not become necessary to litigate these issues, as the resulting disruption and distraction may adversely affect the delivery of important municipal services, while the time, effort and other city resources that litigation requires certainly would be put to better use in the interest of the public. But should litigation prove to be unavoidable, we are confident in our ability to refute your clients’ accusations and establish the legitimate, non-discriminatory nature of the process resulting in their separations.”
Smith has declined extensive comment on the issue citing indications it may proceed to litigation, but when asked if he stands behind his recommendations concerning the GPD restructuring, including the personnel actions taken, Smith said, “Oh, sure.”

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Comments

  1. sandy nowell says:

    This is truely sad, but a prime example of the times we live in. I could see giving a pay cut if its truely budget based, but not to take away their lifes work or lively hood.

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