Menlo Park settles lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in police department

The Menlo Park City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to settle a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the police department.

Under the settlement, the city agreed to pay $55,000 each to three former black officers who allege they were harassed and discriminated against by Sgt. Ron Prickett when working for the city's police department.

In a press release, City Attorney Bill McClure said "the city does not admit any liability or fault and has a longstanding policy against discrimination and harassment of employees."

He said the city continues to train employees on the policy and to enforce it vigorously.

"The causes of action were complex and trial was expected to last for several weeks, involving the testimony of many former and current employees," Mr. McClure said.

Mayor Kelly Fergusson announced the settlement after a closed session of the council.

In a lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court in October, former officers Keith Butler, Joe Hinkston and Kenneth Clayton allege that Sgt. Prickett "created an intimidating, hostile, abusive and offensive working environment" through a number of actions, including placing white-supremacist images in the workplace and calling their attention to them.

The three officers worked under Sgt. Prickett after he was promoted to patrol sergeant in July 2005.

City Council members have had little to say about the case, often deferring questions to Police Chief Bruce Goitia. Earlier this year, the chief said "outside counsel" has already looked into allegations made by the former officers, and after a six-month investigation, it was determined there were no signs of racism or a hostile work environment in the police department.


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 11, 2007 at 9:40 pm

This is clearly another "race card" for money being thrown!!! If there was any merit to this this would have seen a jury. Since it did not...this is a waste of tax payer money for a bunch of ridiculous horse crap!!!! These unethical officers need to learn to quit throwing the race card when they get themselves into trouble. I am disgusted that the Menlo Park Police Department would fall for this and pay to make this go away. Stop playing into the "racist " B.S. and stand up for what is right...not cheaper

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 12, 2007 at 7:53 am

Isn't this the guy the sign on El Camino complains about? Maybe this has something to do with why so many have left the Menlo force in the last year or two. I don't know the facts of this, but it is clear that there are big problems on our city's force. The only response from the cops is "it's not us, it's them." What is the real deal?

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Posted by AuContraire
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 12, 2007 at 8:18 am

Concerned, You need to get a grip on reality. If the city thought it had a case, it would have met the three officers and their lawyer in court. This is not the first time Prickett has been the subject of an internal investigation. I don't know how the past investigation/s were resolved but the latest is what smells bad here. White supremicist images in the workplace shouldn't have been too difficult to verify.

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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 13, 2007 at 2:52 pm do not know what you are talking about. Arbitration is what kept this out of court. The three idiots were offered a deal that of course the City knew was too good to refuse. It would have cost the City far more to take this to trial. This happens all the time. Obviously, the charges against Prickett were unfounded or he would have lost his job over it. Clearly anyone can read the writing between the lines. This is just another case of a bunch of disgruntled employees who fell back on the only thing they know how to...the race card. It is getting pretty old if you ask me.

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Posted by Look closely
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:02 pm

If your hypothesis is true, I think the question you ought to be asking is, why were these officers disgruntled?

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Posted by Dave
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 14, 2007 at 2:02 am

Lets look at a few things why is the police department having such a problem with personnel? Sounds like the blind eye of the management is in full effect.

Shouldn't the Sgt's numerous past indiscretions as an office give you a clue that he probably is not the best candidate for promotion. Then again he had almost a year off for unknown reasons with pay to contemplate his career path.

Don't you think a black would be a bit more offended by White Supremest postings on a computer. After all you know how those people are.

What can we expect to read next coming from the Department. A shift cross burning, free watermelons or gift certificates to popey's chicken for those that can rap.

This Sgt is a ticking time bomb and it's not going to be pretty when it goes off. So keep the check book handy this not the last check the City of Menlo Park will have to pay out for his actions.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 14, 2007 at 7:28 am

On the topic of taxpayer money:

Waste of taxpayer money???? What????

Web Link

The City Manager alone makes more than twice the amount paid out. If the city can throw money loosely around like that, then maybe they can settle just about any claim.

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Posted by Susan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 15, 2007 at 10:09 am

Dave, I'm trying to figure out what you meant by "how those people are." Did you mean blacks are different from whites in how they respond to offensive images of their race? Or were you being ironic? Hope it was the former. I agree with you that Sgt. Prickett's been a problem too many times for simple coincidence. And to Concerned -- you've reached absolute conclusions based on scant evidence and a whole lot of assumptions.

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