GREENSBORO — Nearly eight years after a scandal broke over an alleged “black book” targeting minority officers, the City of Greensboro has settled the claims of nearly 40 black and Latino officers who say they were discriminated against.
Mayor Robbie Perkins announced Wednesday afternoon that the city had reached a settlement in three federal lawsuits for a total of $500,000.
At a press conference, Perkins said the city is not admitting fault, but rather settling the case “to move forward.”
“It was an economic judgement,” he said. “But I think it also gives a sense of closure to the community.”
The city has spent about $2.3 million fighting the suits, which had been scheduled to go to trial Oct. 7.
Attorneys, plaintiffs and city officials gathered in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem Tuesday for a settlement conference, and spent much of the day in private meetings discussing a resolution.
City Council voted 6-3 in a closed session Tuesday to approve the settlement. Members Nancy Vaughan, Zack Matheny, and Tony Wilkins voted no.
As part of the settlement, the officers will also drop their claims against individual plaintiffs, including former City Council member Trudy Wade and former police Chief David Wray.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for the police officers said they feel their clients have been vindicated.
“These current and former Greensboro Police Department officers have done a great service for this city and civil servants everywhere who have endured a racially hostile work environment,” the statement read.
The three suits were filed in 2009, and were among a series of legal actions taken against the city alleging racial and gender discrimination in the police department.
However, the city is not in the clear yet.
Former Greensboro police Capt. Charles Cherry and former Officer Joseph Pryor, who were among the plaintiffs in two of the suits, did not agree to the settlement and their cases are still pending.
Also still pending are a discrimination suit filed by police Capt. James Hinson, and a case involving Wray’s legal fees.
Greensboro City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan said Cherry and Pryor’s claims are still set for trial Oct. 7. A status conference will likely be scheduled in U.S. District Court between now and then to discuss the claims. According to a motion filed earlier this month the two are seeking to dismiss their attorneys, John Bloss, Ken Free Jr. and Jason Knight, who also represented the other officers in the suits. The reasons why have not been made public.
The suits have their roots in a “black book” or line-up book that contained pictures of 19 black officers. The suit contends that Wray and a deputy had ordered subordinates to collect the pictures for the “purpose of framing, embarrassing and wrongfully investigating and charging black officers.”
The suit also claims that the police department showed the line-up book with pictures of the officers to criminal suspects, resulting in “the exposure of black officers ... who were working undercover.”
Wray has said in the past that the book was used to investigate an alleged sexual assault.
Wray, who resigned in 2006, wound up filing his own suit, alleging that he had been discriminated against because he is white.
A federal judge last month dismissed the discrimination claims, but sent to state court his contention that the city owes him more than $100,000 in legal fees.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Perkins said the police department has changed many of its policies, especially on promotions and internal investigations, which he hopes would prevent similar problems from cropping up in the future.
Mayor Pro-Tem Yvonne Johnson said at the press conference she feels the settlement is “a fair and good decision” and that there have been “tremendous improvements” in the police department.
“Any department that doesn’t look at itself, evaluate itself and find some things it can improve is a poor department,” she said. “The police department has done that and is vigilant in their communication in various communities.”
Staff Writer Travis Fain contributed this story.
GREENSBORO − The city has settled several long-standing discrimination lawsuits brought by current and former police officers, city spokesman Donnie Turlington said this afternoon.
Attorneys, who have been negotiating in federal court, struck a deal in three federal cases in which officers alleged they were placed in a "black book" and denied advancement because of their race. Turlington said the settlements total $500,000.
City Council voted 6-3 in a Tuesday closed session to approve the settlement. Members Nancy Vaughan, Zack Matheny, and Tony Wilkins voted no.
At a press conference this afternoon, Perkins said the city was not admitting fault, but rather was settling the case "to move forward."
"It was an economic judgement," he said. "But I think it also gives a sense of closure to the community."
Thus far the city has spent $2.3 million fighting the suits.
Some cases remain outstanding. Former officer Charles Cherry and Joseph Pryor, for example, declined the city's settlement offer, Turlington said.
Another suit involving Police Captain James Hinson, along with a case involving former Police Chief David Wray's claims for attorneys have yet to be resolved.
Claims were earlier dismissed in a suit filed by police officers Scott Sanders and William "Tom" Fox. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. 4:48 p.m. Sept. 18, 2013)
The two, who are white, had been indicted of and cleared of obstruction of justice charges involving investigations of black officers. They filed suit alleging they had been "maliciously prosecuted."
The dismissal of the case is now in the N.C. Court of Appeal, Fox said today.
The three suits settled today were filed in 2009 and involve roughly 40 former and current black and Latino officers.
They are among a series of legal actions taken against the city over the past several years, alleging racial and gender discrimination.
Attorneys met in U.S. District Court for a settlement conference Tuesday, but had not announced a resolution before the end of the court day.
The suits had been scheduled to go to trial Oct. 7.
Contact Travis Fain at (336) 373-4476, and follow @travisfain on Twitter.
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