- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Senate could vote this week on the appointment of a former St. Louis police chief as Missouri’s public safety director, whose name has been advanced despite concerns about a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against him.

Members of the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee voted 10-1 Wednesday in favor of Daniel Isom II, who would become one of the highest-ranking black officials in the state.

Isom’s appointment came amid criticism that department leaders lack diversity under Gov. Jay Nixon. The governor named him to the post in September 2014, three weeks after a white police officer fatally shot black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, sparking sometimes violent protests in the St. Louis suburb.

At issue is a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Isom when he served as St. Louis police chief.

A federal jury in 2013 awarded a white police sergeant $420,000 in punitive damages over his claim that he was unfairly denied a promotion because his superiors wanted a black female to help lead the city police academy.

The jury levied $20,000 in damages against Isom for his responsibility as police chief over the actions of other department leaders. Isom and other defendants have appealed.

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, was the only lawmaker to vote against Isom and said he could be a liability.

But Nixon and some lawmakers have defended Isom. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said the incident appeared isolated and noted Isom’s decades of experience in law enforcement.

The Senate must confirm Isom’s appointment by early next month for him to continue serving, and Dempsey said he plans to bring his confirmation to a full Senate vote as soon as Thursday.

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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