Sophia Police settles for $600,000 in discrimination lawsuit - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Sophia Police settles for $600,000 in discrimination lawsuit

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A small town will have to make a big pay out to a former police officer after a settlement is reached in a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Damon McDowell, a former Sophia Police Officer filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the town of Sophia and its former police chief Tomi Peck.  In exchange for dismissing Peck's name from the lawsuit, the town agreed to pay out $600,000 to McDowell.

"That's a lot of money," Tommy Lovell of Raleigh County said.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court records, but in records obtained by 59News,  Sophia town attorney James Sheatsley said the town's insurance carrier will pay out the settlement in one lump sum.  Residents in the area were shocked to learn the dollar figure.

"Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable," said Melanie Stacy of Coal City. "I can't believe a town this small could come up with something like that."

59News obtained a copy of the lawsuit. In it, McDowell states he faced a "racially-charged, hostile work environment."

In the lawsuit McDowell claims during his employment, which began in Oct. 2011, there were numerous incidents of discrimination. The 25-page lawsuit laid out several claims from McDowell.  Those claims included photos of a monkey that were put on McDowell's desk with the wording "I talk like a monkey," co-workers hiding McDowell's court documents so he would miss court hearings and jokes using racial slurs that were made by co-workers.

59News did reach out to the Mayor of Sophia to find out if this lawsuit and the pay out would impact the town.  The Mayor said he could not comment and told 59News to contact the town's attorney.  A call to the attorney went unreturned.