City Council Approves $725,000 Settlement For White Police Officers Who Claimed Discrimination; 10 Officers To Share Payout

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The City Council on Tuesday night approved a $725,000 settlement in a lawsuit brought by 10 white officers in the Chattanooga Police Department who said they were unfairly passed over for promotions, while a black officer was elevated.

The Chancery Court lawsuit filed in 2006 was in the name of then-Lt. Bobby Rodgers. Others in the case who will share in the settlement are Scott Crider, Tim Commers, Scott Churchwell, Todd Royval, Bryan Moody Jr., David Woosley, Phil Headden, Rebecca Sue Shelton and Barry Vradenburgh.

Councilman Chris Anderson called it a fair settlement. He said he had participated in two recent mediation sessions on the case.

Steve Parks was the chief at the time who put in the hiring freeze, then lifted it temporarily after criticism that the city did not have enough high-ranking black officers.

Chief Parks had admitted in testimony at a hearing in February 2006 that Tracy Arnold, who was moved up from lieutenant, had just had an unfavorable job performance ruling from Internal Affairs.

Chief Parks said one factor was that promotion of more minorities "was something the community and the City Council were asking for and expecting."

The suit said their promotions were blocked after a freeze was put into place after the uproar about the lack of promotion of blacks into the administrative ranks.

Capt. Vivian Hixson said she had difficulties with the performance of then-Lt. Arnold and finally decided to take the unusual action of referring the matter to Internal Affairs.

Capt. Mark Rawlston, who was over Internal Affairs at the time and later was police chief, testified that it was alleged that then-Lt. Arnold was not keeping up with necessary paperwork, was not attending community meetings as required, and was not staying in contact with officers in his command.

"He was somewhat of an absentee supervisor," Capt. Rawlston said.

He said the Internal Affairs case against then-Lt. Arnold was sustained by investigators and by an administrative committee. But he said the action stopped at the level of Chief Parks.

Capt. Hixson said Chief Parks called her in and told her "he had made the decision he needed to promote Tracy." She said he asked her to consider withdrawing the complaint, and she complied.

Chief Parks said he had not known that Capt. Hixson had taken the action, and he said it was something that normally would be handled administratively, not by Internal Affairs.

Chief Parks said, if the action had been sustained, it would have blocked then-Lt. Arnold from being considered for promotion for two years, and he said that was too harsh.

He said he decided to promote then-Lt. Arnold since he was the only person on the list eligible for moving up to captain at the time.

Chief Parks said he was placed over training and communication. He said he has been doing "an adequate job" as captain.

Attorney Steve Dobson filed the suit and still represents the officers.

Upcoming City Council Agenda For Tuesday

Here is the upcoming City Council agenda for Tuesday: I. Call to Order. II. Pledge of Allegiance/Invocation (Councilman Freeman). III. Minute Approval. IV. Special Presentation. “2015 World AIDS Day” By Council for HIV/AIDS Care and Prevention V. Ordinances – Final Reading: PLANNING a. 2015-124 Belle Investment Company and BYD Cowart, GP (Lift Condition). ... (click for more)

PHOTOS: Unveiling Of The EPB Holiday Windows

The time-honored Chattanooga tradition of EPB’s downtown holiday windows feature the themes of “Chattanooga Strong” and other beloved holiday stories. For the second year, STEM School Chattanooga students have assisted EPB’s “elves” to develop the themes and create the scenes that attract thousands of local and visiting families each holiday season. The Chattanooga Girls’ Choir ... (click for more)

An Extra Helping Of Gratitude

After being thankful for the grace of God, my family and good health, this year I have an extra helping of gratitude to live in a special place called Chattanooga.   We endured the trauma of terrorism on July 16 and emerged more united and stronger than ever before.  We claim our heritage and celebrate our diversity like no other city in America.  We honor our ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Can’t ‘Ban The Box’

I know a man who has over 20 former convicts from federal prisons who either work for him or who have retired with their dignity, pride, and self-worth restored. Better yet, I know some of them, men who have done “hard time” in prisons so wretched none of us would dare to go. So on the surface I applaud City Councilman Yusef Hakeem for seeing ways to get formerly incarcerated men ... (click for more)

Alcoa Ends Notre Dame's Season With 42-2 Setback

ALCOA -- It's hard to get past the cold hard facts. Notre Dame's Fighting Irish football team had another outstanding season, but it ended the same way as last year with a semifinal loss to the Alcoa Tornadoes. It wasn't as close as last year's 28-19 defeat as Alcoa gave up a safety in its first possession before scoring 42 straight points, winning for the 10th straight week ... (click for more)

Heights Point Guard Alexander Commits To Florida

Hamilton Heights point guard Shai Alexander, who scored 18 points in the Hawks’ win over Central Park on Tuesday, made a recruiting trip to the University of Florida on Wednesday and announced Friday that he has made a non-binding verbal to coach Mike White’s Gators. Alexander later Friday night scored 12 points and dished out five assists in helping the Hawks post a 66-51 ... (click for more)