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Courts ask for proof in county lawsuit

POSTED: February 19, 2014 1:00 p.m.

A former courts employee has been ordered to show cause why his complaint should not be dismissed without prejudice in a case filed against Barrow County over his termination.

The order gives Sammy Hale, who was fired from his position as a specialty courts director in 2011, a 14-day period to gather evidence to prove the merit of his case.

Hale filed suit in the Northern District of Georgia’s U.S. Court, asking for a jury trial. He alleges he was terminated because he was African-American.

The county has cited Hale’s termination as a result of a sexual assault arrest on Sept. 11, 2011. The charges were later dropped after a Nolle Prosequi motion made by Fulton County’s district attorneys.

Nolle Prosequi is a phrase used to describe a prosecutor's decision to voluntarily drop criminal charges before a trial or verdict is rendered.

Hale's lawsuit notes that he was terminated from his position before the legal process was completed.

The suit also notes that after Hale was fired from the position, the director job was filled by Taylor Jones, who currently retains it.

The lawsuit states Jones is "a Caucasian female with no previous experience with the Specialty Courts Program."

The lawsuit then states that while Hale was employed with Barrow, that the county "treated similarly situated white employees more favorably by not terminating them before a final adjudication of charges."

"Defendant terminated Plaintiff in violation of its policy that Director level terminations must be recommended by the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners and approved by a majority of Commissioners," the lawsuit reads. "Defendant treated similarly situated white employees more favorably by not terminating them without a recommendation by the Chairman of the County Commissioners and approval by a majority of County Commissioners as provided for by County policies."

The lawsuit then states that the county gave "no credence" to Hale's "denial of the criminal charge against him or his explanation of events, but chose to use them as a pretext for termination."

"Defendant acted willfully and with malice and/or reckless indifference to Plaintiff's federally protected rights in terminating his employment discriminatorily," the lawsuit states.

According to articles in the Barrow County News from 2011, Hale notified the county of his arrest and was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 16. He was then fired at the end of the month by Specialty Court Judge Currie Mingledorff.

"Although we are mindful that you have not been adjudicated guilty of this crime, the fact that this has been bound over for trial will not allow for a speedy resolution of this matter as we had hoped," Mingledorff wrote in his Sept. 27 letter of termination. "Because the Specialty Courts Director position is one of integrity and importance, we cannot permit conduct that may be perceived as unbecoming of an executive employee of the Piedmont Judicial Circuit."

According to the lawsuit, "on September 29, 2011 Barrow County described the circumstances of Plaintiff's separation to the Georgia Department of Labor as, 'Termination due to criminal charge of sexual battery in violation of work rules.'" In the meantime, the Fulton County courts accepted an order consenting to a Nolle Prosequi motion made by the county's district attorneys.

Nolle Prosequi is a phrase used to describe a prosecutor's decision to voluntarily drop criminal charges before a trial or verdict is rendered.

Hale is seeking a jury trial on the matter, and asks that the courts declare the county's "racially discriminatory actions unlawful."

He also is asking to be reinstated in a management position comparable to that of the Specialty Courts Director, and to receive back pay and restoration of all seniority and benefits, as well as damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress.

He also is seeking attorney's fees from the county.

 

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