A federal judge yesterday rejected a white Transit Police lieutenant's claims that he was fired because of his race rather than the fact he may have gotten caught lying on time sheets for overtime detail work.
However, US District Court Judge Patti Saris did not completely toss Christopher Maynard's suit, ruling he can still try to convince a jury that a patrolman who said he lied on Maynard's behalf at a disciplinary hearing only recanted because of pressure from a supervisor and that the supervisor went after Maynard because of Maynard's union activities.
Transit Police began an investigation into Maynard in 2015 after a contractor complained he' gotten a bill for 8 1/2 hours of detail work by Maynard when the job Maynard was supposed to oversee was canceled - which meant Maynard should have put in for only 4 hours.
An investigation suggested additional time-sheet issues and Chief Kenneth Green and his command staff decided to terminate Maynard, due to "a pattern of conduct to steal time and money from Department," according to Saris's summary of the case.
The lieutenants' union appealed and asked for arbitration hearings - at which a TPD officer testified that over his 20-year career, he had often stayed at canceled job sites for his full shift, because that's what department policy required. Based in part on his testimony, the arbitrator ruled that TPD had enough evidence to discipline Maynard, but not to fire him.
The arbitrator then ordered new hearings to determine just what sort of discipline Maynard should get.
During the remedy hearings, Officer [William] Smith recanted his prior testimony. He stated that "he had lied at Lt. Maynard’s request" and indicated that Lt. Maynard had fabricated the "no show" detail slips offered in the "just cause" hearings. Lt. Maynard denied Officer Smith’s allegations and offered counter evidence that Officer Smith had been coerced into changing his testimony.
Arbitrator Wooters issued his final decision on January 26, 2018. Crediting Officer Smith’s changed testimony over Lt. Maynard’s testimony, he concluded that termination was an appropriate remedy. In doing so, he noted that, but for the false testimony allegations, “a suspension of five working days with reinstatement would have been appropriate.” The act of arranging for false testimony, however, had terminated Lt. Maynard’s entitlement to reinstatement and back pay.
What might have changed Smith's mind? TPD investigators called up the GPS records from the specific detail jobs he initially claimed he had spent a full tour at and found that, in fact, at some, he had left long before his 8 1/2 hours were up, while at two specific details, the contractor - in those cases, the T's own power department - had actually performed work, so the officer legitimately worked, rather than just stood around watching nothing.
The department began disciplinary hearings against Smith; just before his hearings were to start, his lawyer notified the department that his client would admit to perjury on Maynard's behalf. Smith was ultimately suspended for 30 days and banished to the TPD booking desk for the rest of his career.
While all this was going on, in April, 2016, Green gave an interview to a local radio station, Big City FM, in which he discussed the difficulty of increasing diversity in the mostly white TPD, in part because of a state requirement that veterans be given preference in hiring.
He acknowledged that veterans are "deserv[ing] of having preference" but noted that "people in the community deserve new positions as well." He explained that he planned to navigate this "tricky situation" by making a more "concentrated effort to recruit minority veterans and minorities within the community." He further expressed a desire to "darken" up the department, which was then seventy-four percent white.
This interview was Maynard's sole proof that the department in general and Green and Superintendent Richard Sullivan, fired him because of his race.
Saris concluded: Please.
[A]fter reviewing the contents of the April 2016 radio interview, the Court finds nothing which might allow a reasonable juror to infer the existence of bias. Chief Green did not make any derogatory or negative statements about white individuals during the interview. He merely discussed his hope of increasing diversity within the department.
She noted that Green initially excused himself from the Maynard investigation and hired an "outside agency" to look into the matter because he considered Maynard a friend.
But while Saris dismissed most of Maynard's complaint, against the department in general and Green in particular, she allowed his lawsuit to continue against Sullivan specifically over allegations that Sullivan was out to get him because of possible "anti-union animus."
She wrote that when he was himself a lieutenant Sullivan and Maynard, then a vice president in the lieutenants' union had "many heated discussions, differences, conflicts regarding work matters, and contentious interactions." And after he became superintendent, Sullivan allegedly threatened to spend his own money to sue the union and its officials after Maynard, five days after he'd been fired, posted a photo on a public forum of Sullivan supposedly asleep during one of the hearings.
And she concluded that she did not have enough facts either way to determine whether Sullivan used his alleged bias against Maynard and his union activities to convince Smith to recant his initial testimony or whether Sullivan had a legitimate reason for working to discipline Smith for perjury, that that was something a jury would need to decide.
Supt. Sullivan argues that, because he had a legitimate interest in investigating and disciplining Officer Smith for perjury, Lt. Maynard cannot prove his actions were motivated by actual malice. Having found that a genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether Supt. Sullivan coerced Officer Smith to change his testimony, however, the Court cannot resolve the issue of whether Supt. Sullivan only acted pursuant to a legitimate interest in investigating wrongdoing.