Suit alleges retaliation, discrimination by Asheville Police Department against officer **UPDATED**

Suit alleges retaliation, discrimination by Asheville Police Department against officer **UPDATED**-attachment0

Asheville Police Department Lt. Mark Byrd, claiming the city of Asheville’s management and the APD’s leadership retaliated and discriminated against him on a number of occasions, including when his wife filed a sexual harassment suit, filed a lawsuit in federal court Jan. 21.

The lawsuit alleges that in its treatment of Byrd and other dissenting officers, the APD has “engaged in discrimination, retaliation, intimidation, and the use of falsehoods.” According to the suit, Byrd was assigned to “duties and projects in excess of those normally assigned to an officer in his position,” excluded from disciplinary and planning meetings that he normally would have been a part of, and assigned duties that ensured he couldn’t take family leave he had been approved for following the 2013 birth of his child.

Asheville Interim City Attorney Martha McGlohon issued this official response:

The City and APD take any allegation of discrimination extremely seriously. Because we safeguard the privacy of our employees and because of State law, we cannot comment on pending litigation. But what we can say is that our employment guidelines are very clear that we do not tolerate discrimination or retaliation for any reason whatsoever.  We are proud of our workforce, including the brave men and women of the APD and believe them to be examples of the quality of service that draws citizens and visitors to our city year after year.

Starting last year, Byrd, who has worked with the APD for 15 years, sharply and publicly criticized Chief William Anderson and other senior officers, alleging that they mishandled an accident involving the chief’s son, had a pattern of “false and misleading information” and retaliated against him and others who brought concerns forward. A subsequent city investigation largely cleared Anderson, but found he had made some mistakes and promised a planning process to address concerns with the APD’s management.

According to the suit, Byrd and two other lieutenants who criticized Anderson were then excluded from that planning process.

While Byrd was promoted to lieutenant in 2012, the suit claims this was part of a pre-determined process that his superiors couldn’t easily halt, and that afterwards he was publicly insulted by a supervisor, given duties that normally wouldn’t be assigned to his rank and kept out of disciplinary and decision-making processes.

Byrd is also the husband of Cherie Byrd, a police officer who filed a federal lawsuit in 2010 charging racist and sexist text messages were sent by her supervisor, then-Sgt. Eric Lauffer. The city’s defense later admitted that the messages were sent, but denied any wrongdoing. Lauffer was demoted, but not fired, and the case was settled out of court for $52,100.

The suit alleges that after his wife filed the 2010 suit, Byrd was reprimanded for his part in a phone prank, although the other employees involved did not complain and weren’t disciplined. He and his wife were also asked to turn over their weapons, even though the rules would normally allow him to carry one on his duties.

Byrd is seeking at least $85,000 in damages, the removal of all negative material identified in the lawsuit from his personnel file and restrictions on the APD and the city from any further retaliatory action.

The full lawsuit can be read here.

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12 thoughts on “Suit alleges retaliation, discrimination by Asheville Police Department against officer **UPDATED**

  1. bsummers

    Not in a position to know whether any of that is true or not, but I think it should be pointed out that Chief Anderson promoted Byrd to Lieutenant in the middle of this period. The oppression and intimidation couldn’t be that bad.

  2. Catherine McCartan

    From what I have read in various articles, Mr. Byrd was the department’s top scorer for the objective criteria used to rank candidates, so the APD management had no choice but to promote him to lieutenant.

  3. Jonathan Wainscott

    Thanks Esther, Cecil, Gordon, Marc, Chris, Jan, and Gary. Thank you for your leadership and outstanding performance. When you are done aspiring, do you think you could maybe do a little work on something other than non-binding resolutions? You guys are always pretending that you can change the world, but you always have an excuse as to why you can’t do anything about problems in the city. Maybe we could start exporting excuses because you guys sure produce a lot of’m.

  4. Unaffiliated Voter

    Thanks Jonathan Wainscott for your comments above, which actually elicited response from Councilman Bothwell. Do the other elected officials ever read local media to KNOW that more and more people are growing more and more disgusted with what we endure here from decades of incompetent ‘leadership’?

    • bsummers

      Interesting that this anonymous person is continuing to pretend that the false Cecil comment is real, hours after it has been debunked (de-Buncombed, to use the full historically-derived spelling).

  5. cecilbothwell

    Thanks Barry for alerting me to the post filed under my name. I’ve contacted Xpress to have it removed.

    Given that Xpress refuses to publish posts by elected officials in “real time,” holding them until they can be vetted by editors, it is particularly troubling to me that they let this kind of garbage pass muster.

    • Margaret Williams

      Barry & Cecil:

      The post has been removed. We researched it, and discovered that the commenter used an old user name and email associated with Bothwell. That account was classified as a “member,” which means that the comment published without moderation.

      Someone hacked the system

  6. Dionysis

    “I’ve spoken to Cecil, and this is not from him. XPress: are you not more careful to prevent people from impersonating & slandering elected officials like this?”

    Thanks for checking this out; when I read it, it made no sense, and was not at all like anything Mr.
    Bothwell has expressed before. Indeed, it seemed suspect and came across as someone trying to make the Councilman look daft. I’m surprised it’s that easy to dupe MtnXpress, if that is what happened (as it seems).

  7. bsummers

    I’ve spoken to Cecil, and this is not from him. XPress: are you not more careful to prevent people from impersonating & slandering elected officials like this?

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