Ex-Medina chief’s bias trial begins
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly rejected some elements of former Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen’s wrongful-termination lawsuit but left intact his claim of racial discrimination.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A federal judge has thrown out some elements of former Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen’s wrongful-termination lawsuit against the city, but ruled that others can go to trial.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly, who earlier dismissed Chen’s claims he was the victim of a conspiracy, issued an order Thursday rejecting a claim he was subjected to a hostile work environment.
Chen will get his day in court on his allegations of racial discrimination and denial of due process. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial March 11.
Zilly wrote in his order that “stray remarks” made by City Manager Donna Hanson and former Mayor Bret Jordan don’t demonstrate a hostile work environment because they were “neither severe nor pervasive” and didn’t interfere with Chen’s ability to do his job.
A question Hanson allegedly asked during a meeting with Chen and two other employees — “Do you people eat turkey” at Thanksgiving? — didn’t necessarily show bias because it wasn’t clear it was directed only at Chen, Zilly wrote.
The judge did not rule on whether the comment could be used in court to evaluate whether Chen was treated differently than other employees because he is Chinese-American.
“We are pleased that the most egregious civil-rights claims of discrimination and violation of due process will be decided by a jury,” Chen’s attorney, Marianne Jones, said Friday.
The city’s trial attorney, Stephanie Alexander, could not be reached for comment.
Hanson fired Chen in 2011, saying he lied during two investigations, forged police officers’ names on memorandums voiding traffic tickets, used city property for personal benefit, destroyed records, and lost the confidence of his subordinates.
Chen, hired as a police captain in 2001 and promoted to chief in 2004, denied all those allegations.
He became a cause célèbre for many Medina residents, who said he was an exemplary police chief and asked the City Council to reinstate him and fire Hanson instead.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org