Police board chairman resigns after gay sergeant’s $20m discrimination victory | US news

US News

The chairman of a St Louis county police board has resigned and another board member said she is being replaced after a jury found that a sergeant was discriminated against because he is gay and recommended that he be awarded nearly $20m.

The county executive, Sam Page, said on Monday in a letter announcing board chairman Roland Corvington’s resignation that the county had “not always done a good job” of addressing the unique challenges in the workplace for women, people of color and LGBT people.

Board member Laurie Westfall said Page also told her she was being replaced, the St Louis Post Dispatch reported.

The departures come days after a jury ruled in favor of Sgt Keith Wildhaber in his discrimination lawsuit.

He testified that a former St Louis county police board of commissioners member, John Saracino, told him in 2014 that he would need to “tone down his gayness” to secure a promotion to lieutenant. Saracino has denied that he made the comment.
The police board held an emergency meeting on Tuesday and unanimously voted to initiate an independent review of the department.

A statement announcing the investigation on Tuesday night said it would include reviewing “policies and procedures, the decision-making and promotions processes, and inclusion within the Department”.

The board, not the county executive, holds the power to fire a police chief.

Page has not said how many members of the five-member commission he planned to replace or whether he wants the board to fire Chief Jon Belmar, who has led the department since early 2014.

By Friday, all five members of the police board will be serving on expired terms. Belmar did not respond to a voicemail and text seeking comment, and the three remaining board members either declined to comment or did not respond to requests to do so.

Corvington, a retired special agent in charge of the FBI in St Louis who works as director of global security for Edward Jones, said the trial was “embarrassing”.

The case included testimony about Wildhaber being passed over 23 times for promotion and being transferred in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Belmar himself testified that Wildhaber’s lawsuit was a factor in his not being promoted.

“I sincerely believe the jury’s decision to award this verdict was a wake-up call to the department and its leadership that they have to be mindful of what is said and how it’s said and to be mindful of their conduct when engaging with their subordinates, their peers and the public for that matter,” said Corvington, who had served on the board since 2012.

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