Lawsuit filed against North Oldham Fire Department over racist F - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Lawsuit filed against North Oldham Fire Department over racist Facebook posting

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- A North Oldham Fire Department firefighter has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the department, chief and other officials, claiming, in part, they "launched a phony investigation" into the posting of a racist statement on the department website.

The suit, filed on behalf of Michael Williams, who is black, claims that on May 13, 2013, then Major Charlie Hebel posted on Facebook the statement, "Poetic Justice. I didn't think you could make a ni----- lips bigger."

Chief David Stoltz, who is named in the suit, was informed of the posting and told Hebel to remove it. He also put a letter in Hebel's personnel file, according to the suit, which was filed in Jefferson Circuit Court.  

No other disciplinary action was taken by the chief or the North Oldham Board of Trustees - and Stoltz was promoted from Major to Assistant Chief, in charge of Williams and two black recruits, the suit claims.

On Nov. 17, according to the suit, someone within the fire department posted a screenshot of the Facebook posting to the department's website. The chief and board were again notified.

On Nov. 19, Williams filed a complaint with the board and claims in the suit that a board member responded by reprimanding him.

After a local news story on Nov. 21, the board approved an investigation into who posted the screenshot, the suit says. But the investigation was quickly completed with little digging and without addressing Williams' concerns, according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims the fire department has encouraged racial bias and prejudice while placing black employees in danger "by their acquiescence to racial bias and bigotry, leaving Hebel in charge of them in life-threatening situations.

Claims made in filing a lawsuit present only one side of the case. Stoltz did not immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment. Hebel was not at the department Monday and couldn't be immediately reached.

And the suit claims the department violated Kentucky open meeting laws when it didn't involve the board of trustees in the decision making progress regarding the investigation of the Facebook screenshot posting.

The lawsuit is requesting compensatory and punitive damages and a jury trial.

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