Assistant police chief sues city of Greensboro over disciplinary decision
An assistant chief with the Greensboro Police Department has filed suit against the city of Greensboro seeking a court order to vacate a disciplinary action by the city manager.
Assistant Chief Ronald E. Rogers was suspended without pay for 21 days, or 15 working days, from the department by City Manager Rashad Young in February for conduct unbecoming of a police officer. Two months after Rogers returned to work, Young retroactively reduced the assistant chief’s suspension to five days. Thomas F. Loflin III, a Durham lawyer who represents Rogers, said his client received retroactive pay for 10 of the working days in which he had been suspended.
As noted in the new lawsuit, which was filed in Guilford County Superior Court on Monday, Rogers is a plaintiff with 38 other black officers in a pending federal lawsuit “alleging a pervasive pattern of racial discrimination by the respondent city against African-American members of the city’s police department.”
The new civil action filed by Rogers, a petition for writ of certiorari, takes issue with both the process by which the assistant chief was disciplined and the facts of the matter for which he was suspended.
The disciplinary action against Rogers arose from a sexual harassment allegation made against the assistant chief by a former police employee, Latania Marrow, at her termination hearing.
Young wrote in a Feb. 8 memo to Rogers that an internal investigation “did not substantiate Ms. Marrow’s allegations of sexual harassment,” but that as an assistant chief he was being “held to a more exacting standard than nonsupervisory employees” and that Rogers had placed the city “at risk of a sexual harassment charge and other associated claims.”
In a May 14 memo, following Rogers’ appeal, Young wrote, “During your appellate hearing you admitted, under oath, that you had an inappropriate relationship with former police officer Marrow. While both police officer Marrow and a police corporal were being investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct, you had contact with both of them regarding the case. Your contact with police officer Marrow at some point included discussions of both her marriage and her sexual activity. This has particular significance in that police officer Marrow was married to a fellow Greensboro police officer while you were engaging in these sexual conversations. The nature of these conversations was such that you admitted during your appellate hearing that your wife, also a Greensboro officer, would be offended by their content.”
Young concluded that Rogers’ actions “not only reflect poorly on you and the GPD but also directly impacts the lives of four of your fellow officers.”
Loflin said the appeals hearing was recorded at his client’s request. He declined to release a copy of the recording, but predicted it will eventually become a part of the court record.
“We definitely contend the record will show not that he had an inappropriate relationship, but rather to the contrary,” he said.
The lawsuit states that Rogers “did not testify at the hearing that he had an ‘inappropriate relationship’” with Marrow, but rather that the assistant chief “steadfastly denied any ‘inappropriate relationship’” with her.
Rogers also contends that he “did not testify about sexual conversations with Officer Marrow that he initiated. His testimony was to the effect that he mentored Officer Marrow — and many other lower-ranking officers — and that Officer Marrow would come to him for advice about how to handle off-duty relationships and how to overcome problems with her husband who was also a police officer.”
Also, the lawsuit contends that during the hearing Young asked Rogers if he had “engaged in ‘sexual banter’ with Officer Marrow, which the city manager defined as talking about sex acts with each other.” Rogers says he “flatly denied engaging in such ‘sexual banter’ with Officer Marrow.”
In his May 14 letter, in which he advised Rogers that there were no further appeals available, Young acknowledged “the issues raised with regard to the documentation of investigatory findings in this matter,” adding that, “consistent with like and similar discipline, I am reducing your suspension from fifteen duty days to five duty days.”
In his notice of appeal, filed in February, Rogers alleges that he was called into a disciplinary hearing with the city manager on Feb. 11 without any formal notice, in contravention to city policies and procedures.
“The city of Greensboro failed to present me with any specific allegations of unacceptable behavior or actions on which my suspension from active duty with the Greensboro Police Department were based,” Rogers wrote. “I do not know the alleged conduct on which my suspension was based. The terms articulated by the city manager as ‘unacceptable behavior and actions adversely affecting the police department’ are broad vague terms and not specific in nature.”
The lawsuit contends that the city violated Rogers’ constitutional right to due process when Young told Rogers that he could appeal the initial disciplinary decision but refused to recuse himself as the hearing officer for the March 12 appeal hearing. The lawsuit contends that Young’s eventual decision and process for making it “were legally erroneous, did not afford petitioner constitutional due process and equal protection of the laws, [and] were arbitrary and capricious.”
The lawsuit argues, “Recusal was constitutionally required because the city manager made the initial decision of discipline — to suspend the petitioner without pay — and then required the petitioner to appeal the city manager’s decision to the city manager!” The lawsuit cites the US Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Caperton v. AT Massey Coal Co. in its argument that “there is an unconstitutional probability of actual bias — as well as clear legal bias — when a person entertains an appeal from his own decision.”
City Attorney Terry Wood said Monday that he had not seen the lawsuit. Noting that as a rule he does not comment on pending litigation, he said the city’s response would be in a formal filing.
“The denial of my rights as outlined above by the city manager continues the city’s pattern, practice and custom in place since at least 1997 of discriminating against African- Americans,” Rogers said in his appeal. “The city manager is biased in fact against me, as evidenced by his statement to me on February 11, when he delivered his decision to suspend me, and that he really preferred to fire me.”
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