Age discrimination alleged in lawsuit aginst El Paso County Sheriff's Office

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Sheriff Bill Elder is accused of age discrimination. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Bill Elder is accused of age discrimination.
A lawsuit filed against Sheriff Bill Elder and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office gives a glimpse into the atmosphere there, and some pretty rough language is used on employees, it would seem.

Former Lt. Timothy Williams filed the lawsuit on March 27 in El Paso County District Court, alleging discrimination based on age and his involvement in an investigation.

According to the lawsuit, Williams, a 14-year employee, says Elder, who took office on Dec. 31, 2014, required a mandatory survey in March 2016 of personnel requesting retirement eligibility dates. Williams’ date was June 1, 2018. Thereafter, Williams, as part of his job and as a member of the Disciplinary Action Board, looked into a report of inappropriate conduct involving underage drinking and fraternization. In the course of that, he discovered other sheriff’s deputies conspired to cover up certain events. Williams reported this to a county attorney.

The board later recommended reassignment of an employee and demotion by one pay grade.

Elder and his administrator Larry Borland met with Williams on Oct. 28, 2016 and berated him for the board decision, the lawsuit says. Elder also criticized Williams’ job performance.

Borland “yelled at Williams” over the board’s finding and said, “The CEO should be able to fucking fire anybody he wants to,” the lawsuit says.

On Nov. 2, 2016, Elder met with lieutenants and looked at Williams when he said, “If you can’t cut it then check out.” The next day, he said to Williams, “Are you done? So if you’re fucking done then just get out,” according to Williams' lawsuit.

On Nov. 7, Borland gave Williams a letter from Elder demoting him to senior deputy assigned to the jail, a significant cut in rank, pay and duties. Williams retired the next day, wanting to preserve his retirement benefits at his current pay.

According to the lawsuit:

Sheriff Elder's unilateral demotion violated EPSO, Standard ACA: 7E-01, Disciplinary/Corrective Action Policy, Section II, which states:
'A demotion must be decided by the Disciplinary Action Board. A demotion reduces the classification and salary grade of an employee due to the employee's failure to maintain satisfactory job performance or for other disciplinary reasons. This action is not subject to appeal. This disciplinary decision will be made by the Disciplinary Action Baord, after procedures are followed with respect to the DAB.'
"Demoting Williams in this manner without referring the matter to the Disciplinary Action Board violated Defendant Sheriff Elder's own Policy and" state law, the lawsuit says.

(Elder later abolished the board in December but subsequently resurrected it.)

Then, on Oct. 30, 2017, the Sheriff's Office retaliated against Williams by "publicly and specifically naming him in a response to an Open Records Request, accusing Williams of taking Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement (CALEA) documents."

The letter stated that Williams "removed items from his office" and that the CALEA documents couldn't be found. This publicly humiliated Williams, the lawsuit says.

Williams contends Elder and the Sheriff's Office targeted him because of his age, 58 at the time, by "making ageist comments about Williams and his plans for retirement" and refusing him due process.

The lawsuit seeks more than $100,000 in damages.

Sheriff’s spokesperson Jackie Kirby said the department won’t comment on pending litigation.

County spokesperson Dave Rose said via email, "El Paso County has received no notice of claim and maintains that any disciplinary action taken in connection with Mr. Williams was lawful and warranted. El Paso County denies that Mr. Williams was either discriminated against or retaliated against."

Here's the complaint.
See related PDF WilliamsVsEPSO.pdf

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