Kennesaw doles out $1.8M for racial suit
by Brandon Wilson
bwilson@mdjonline.com
August 27, 2009 05:00 AM | 4370 views | 10 10 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - Settlement details regarding a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the city of Kennesaw and a number of its officials have emerged following an open records request from the Journal.

The Journal earlier this month reported that the March-filed lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia - in which two current and one former employees in the city's Public Works Department alleged racial discrimination amid a hostile work environment -had been settled. However, details, including the $1.8 million that was paid to the plaintiffs and their attorneys, were not revealed.

According to the confidential settlement agreement, Willie Smith, who has worked for the city since 1995, was awarded $414,375, as was Stanley Mitchell, who has been with the city for 22 years. Gary Redd, who quit the department in August 2008 after two years, received $234,375. The law firm that represented the men, Atlanta-based Buckley & Klein, was paid $736,875. Signing the settlement was attorney Edward Buckley.

"The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all involved, including my clients," Buckley said.

It was determined by the Journal following a second open records request that the city's insurance company paid $1 million of the total payment to plaintiffs and their attorney, while the city paid the remaining $800,000.

The settlement dismisses all charges filed by plaintiffs to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and states that plaintiffs cannot "attempt to re-initiate the claims set forth in the civil action."

Also, the settlement -which was signed by all parties in mid July and approved by the City Council on July 20-states there is no wrongdoing on behalf of defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Smith and Mitchell, who are black, claimed they had been called "niggers" by employees and had heard racially charged jokes by city employees. The suit claimed city management had done nothing to stop the racial slurs. The suit also claimed that a hangman's noose hung in one employee's truck in 1996, and a white only sign was put on the bathroom door in 2001.

Both men remain employees of the city, and their attorney said, "The environment has improved dramatically."

"I have to give credit to the attorneys for the city of Kennesaw for the work they did to turn things around up there," Buckley said.

As for Redd, who is from Korea, the lawsuit stated he faced repeated racial harassment during his two years working for the city. The lawsuit stated his co-workers had called him a "wetback" several times in front of supervisors.

Besides filing the suit against the city, the plaintiffs also named Mayor Mark Mathews, City Councilman John Dowdy, City Manager Steve Kennedy, Human Resources Director Leean Keanum, Public Works Director Woody McFarlin, Public Works Assistant Director Lonnie Cowart, Sanitation Superintendent Tim Letner and Street Department Superintendent Allen Ames as defendants.

Mayor Mark Mathews did not return calls for comment by press time. However, shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the mayor said he was disappointed by the allegations and stated, "Kennesaw will not tolerate any harassment, discrimination or retaliation toward any employee."

Five city employees were let go after the city investigated the allegations. Former councilman John Dowdy resigned from his seat after the lawsuit was filed. In June, Cris Eaton-Walsh won a special election for Dowdy's seat.
Comments
(10)
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Shame .........
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September 02, 2009
Shame, shame, shame................. The City of Kennesaw has not learned there lesson. More people should of been FIRED. This city needs a change in management. Change is good............

Nothing has changed
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August 29, 2009
city has not and didn't learn their lesson..that's the shame of it all...
anonymous
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August 28, 2009
Gee, to my knowledge the mayor and council are NOT "over" any city employees, as in they are not their boss. How are they again responsible? I understand dept. supervisors... Were mayor and council in direct contact with these employees? Sounds to me like some people were out to get PAID, primarily the attorney...What a shame!!!
Jerry Gerig
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August 28, 2009
The City should have gone to court. When all the facts were presented, the jury would not have found for the lawyer and the plaintiffs. It was extortion from the beginning. What happened to backbones?
THANKS GUYS
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August 27, 2009
PUBLIC WORKS IS SO MUCH BETTER TO WORK FOR BECAUSE OF YOU THANKS.
city employee
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August 27, 2009
THANKS FOR THE SUIT BECAUSE SO MUCH HAS CHANGED FOR THE BETTER AND THE SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR FRIENDS IS FINALLY OVER.SAD THAT IT TOOK THIS BUT OUT WITH THE OLD IN WITH THE NEW.THANKS AGAIN WILLIE AND STANLEY!
anonymous
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August 27, 2009
The "confidential settlement" does not appear very confidential.
city residence
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August 27, 2009
The $800,000 that the city paid - that's my city taxes at work... thanks a lot those of you that were quilty of this!!
anonymous
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August 27, 2009
Working in the public arena myself, I have seen that kind of stuff but I put a stop to it in my area. It is a good old boy network in many areas. Friends hire friends and they all have the same mind sets- redneck. They should fire all management that was over those areas.
mrs boss lady
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August 27, 2009
I,m glad that someone had the guts to make a stand and not be afraid,I,ve always said that what goes around comes around and that it was long over due P.S we wish you all the best
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