Former Stanton KY cop sues city on discrimination charge

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A Stanton, Ky., school resource officer is suing the city, alleging he was discriminated against when he was terminated.

Wesley Tingey via Unsplash

A former Stanton police officer is accusing the city he worked for of discriminating against him in a federal lawsuit.

Michael Townsend, of Clay City, alleges the city of Stanton violated the Americans with Disabilities act, forced him to retire and violated his civil rights in a lawsuit he filed last week.

Townsend said in the suit he was terminated from his position as a high school resource officer because of his age, and the city replaced him with younger candidates who were paid a greater salary.

He said in the lawsuit he was alienated by members of the police department who prevented him from being invited to lunch, not allowing him to get food and attempting to prevent him from working special shifts.

Townsend is requesting his position be reinstated with the city and he be awarded compensatory damages.

When asked for comment Monday, Mayor Willie Means referred the Herald-Leader to the city attorney, Scott Graham, who was not immediately available. Means was not serving as the city’s mayor at the time of the alleged discrimination. Means said he believed the matter had been resolved. Court documents show that a summons had been sent to the city on Wednesday.

Townsend began work as a part-time school resource officer in August 2019, and was granted “reasonable accommodations” for his disability including flexible workdays, flexibility in wearing his uniform, standing and sitting, and no heavy lifting. Townsend’s disability wasn’t stated in court documents, but it is certified by the ADA.

Over the course of the next year, Townsend was advised by city officials that he was going to be replaced by another candidate for the job who was younger and not disabled, court documents allege. The other candidate wasn’t working as a police officer at the time and didn’t have up-to-date certification to serve as a resource officer.

Townsend was told the other candidate would make three times what Townsend was making, despite Townsend having been told the city could not afford to pay more.

Townsend was told that police officials made comments that he was “old” and “needed to retire and go home,” according to the lawsuit.

Townsend was highly qualified, court documents say, and was recognized as School Resource Officer for the Eastern Region of Kentucky at the 2022 Kentucky Association of School Resource Officers’ annual conference.

On June 30, 2022, Townsend met with the mayor and told the mayor he would be able to work the newly-created school resource officer position full-time. Townsend sent this in writing to the office, according to court documents.

He was later informed the school was choosing to not have an office for the school resource officer for the next school year, and he needed to clean out his office. When he arrived to do so, someone appeared to have already gone through his office and removed some of his belongings.

According to court documents, a police sergeant admitted they had already gone through everything and taken some of Townsend’s belongings to the police department.

But Townsend ran into the school’s principal who asked why he was cleaning out his office, making it apparent that it was the city and police department that wanted him to remove his belongings — not the school, according to court documents.

Townsend received a letter from the city stating he would be laid off on Aug. 1, 2022, but was encouraged to apply for one of two full-time positions, and was thanked for his service.

Both Townsend and another candidate submitted applications. Townsend soon noticed that on his paychecks, his retirement deduction was not included in July, indicating his benefits were stopped before he was laid off, according to the lawsuit.

According to court documents, Townsend was informed shortly thereafter by police Chief Grant Faulkner that another candidate was hired as the resource officer and the other position would be used for officers who needed overtime.

Townsend’s lawsuit alleged the city of Stanton terminated him to replace him “with a less qualified candidate who was not disabled,” despite him clearly being the most-qualified candidate for the position.

Townsend’s lawsuit asserts the city conducted itself with “malice or with reckless indifference to (Townsend’s) federally protected rights.”

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission said Townsend had a reasonable claim to sue, according to court documents.

Townsend’s attorney, James O’Toole was not immediately available for comment on Monday morning.

Taylor Six is the criminal justice reporter at the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington attending Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as the government reporter for the Richmond Register.

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