Legal Reference

Ex-police chief sues Youngtown, cites civil-rights violations

Here is a copy of the lawsuit filed by Youngtown Police Chief Kimberly Johnson against the city of Youngtown.


Ex-police chief sues Youngtown, cites civil-rights violations

by D.S. Woodfill - Jan. 6, 2011 10:28 AM

The Arizona Republic

Youngtown's former police chief is suing the town and two officers, saying she was discriminated against because she's a woman.

document Read Johnson's complaint

Kimberly Johnson, who started as a police aide in 1996 and worked her way up to chief in July 2008, was fired in September 2009. Town Manager Lloyce Robinson fired Johnson after all nine members of the town's small police force submitted a letter of no-confidence, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Phoenix. Court documents say Johnson's civil rights were violated because she was singled out and targeted by a "campaign of insubordination" by two sergeants, Dave Evans and Greg Hunter. Neither man could be reached for comment.

The letter of no-confidence said Johnson fostered a hostile working environment and displayed emotional instability, among other problems.

"It just went on and on and these things just were not true," said Trisha Kirtley, Johnson's lawyer. "They're not the type of things . . . you would hear about a male chief of police."

Robinson would not comment on the complaint, which was served to the city on Dec. 23.

"I really can't speak," she said. "I would like to but I can't."

Robinson said in Johnson's termination letter that she failed to follow directives such as regularly scheduling staff meetings, creating a mission statement and departmental goals, and developing training plans.

The letter also said Johnson "developed and perpetuated a negative, retaliatory, 'gotcha' attitude" with her staff and was "inattentive" to council members and residents.

Kirtley said her client was stripped of her authority to do her job capably after Evans and Hunter started a "campaign of insubordination" because Johnson is a woman.

"It's our contention that they pretty much organized this," she said.

Kirtley, who filed a $1.1 million notice of complaint to the town in February on Johnson's behalf, said she doesn't know if she will seek more damages. The lawsuit has 10 accusations, ranging from sex discrimination to retaliation for complaining about the discrimination.

Kirtley said town officials should have stood up for Johnson.

"Her career in law-enforcement leadership has been tainted seriously and that's probably an understatement," Kirtley said. "She's following through with this lawsuit . . . because she wants the town to recognize what they've done and to hopefully not do it again."

She said the town's deadline to respond to the complaint is Feb. 20.

"It's (the case) going the distance and that's really unfortunate," Kirtley said. "So off to court we go. And that's fine."