Watchdog: Accountability

Jury: town worker lost promotion because of race

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Associated Press,Watchdog,Mississippi,Accountability,Law

BRUCE, Miss. — The town of Bruce passed over a black worker to run the public works department because of his race, and owes him $18,000, a federal jury has found.

The town's attorneys, Gary E. Friedman and Mark D. Fijman, did not immediately respond to a query emailed Sunday about whether they will appeal the verdict handed up last week in favor of longtime employee Roderick Keith Gray.

Gray filed a discrimination suit after the Board of Alderman chose an out-of-state candidate with extensive management experience but without current certification for water and wastewater operations.

"The guy they hired had been in management but let his certification lapse. You have to be hands-on in Bruce," said Gray's attorney, Jim Waide.

Gray was making $31,000 a year when he applied for the job.

The other man got it for $60,000. He left after a year. The town then split the job in two, making Gray the water and sewage supervisor.

A jury of seven whites and one African-American handed up a verdict for Gray last week after deliberating 2 ½ hours, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1fMWeVm) reported.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills of the Northern District of Mississippi had ruled in 2012 that Gray didn't have enough evidence to prove his case but the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his decision in July, sending the case to a jury.

Bruce Mayor Rudy Pope, elected in June, attended the trial. He said he has since spoken with Gray, who will continue working for the town.

"I told him to not even worry about it," Pope said. "We'll just get back to work like we need to."

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