- Associated Press - Sunday, August 21, 2016

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - A Clark County jury has awarded $500,000 to a black former jail deputy who alleged that he was passed over for a promotion, denied training opportunities and ridiculed because of his race.

The verdict Friday was $100,000 more than the former deputy, Britt Easterly, sought, The Columbian newspaper reported (https://goo.gl/IdVknw ).

Easterly was one of three black men who sued the county for discrimination in 2009. The others were former jail commander Clifford Evelyn and Elzy Patrick Edwards, a job applicant who was denied employment. Their claims were dismissed, but they have appealed that decision.

Easterly argued during a two-week trial in Superior Court that he left the sheriff’s office in 2009 after being passed over for a promotion. He said he was denied training opportunities, and in 2008 he discovered photos on doors in the jail depicting a large African-American man wearing a grass skirt, feathered headdress and dancing. A caption questioned whether it was a picture of Easterly on vacation; the officer who posted the photo was disciplined.

“It was obviously a racist and hostile work environment,” presiding juror Kathleen Dunn said after the verdict.



Another juror, Rhonda Murphy, said the jury “wanted to make a point” by awarding Easterly more than he asked for, and that the sheriff’s office needs to mandate more anti-discrimination training.

“There’s very much a pattern of racism,” she said. “And the fear of losing your job if you report it needs to stop.”

Easterly declined to comment after the verdict.

“We appreciate the jury’s service, but we are obviously disappointed with the verdict,” the county’s lead attorney, Mitchell Cogen of Bullard Law in Portland, Oregon, said in a written statement.

“In light of the verdict, we are considering all available options.”

Cogen said in his closing arguments there was no evidence that race played a factor in most of the incidents Easterly identified. He argued that Easterly wanted to be awarded money for incidents that allegedly happened to other people.

As far as Easterly being passed over for the promotion, Cogen pointed out that Evelyn, who’s also a black man, was promoted right away.

After the verdict was reached Friday, Cogen moved to have the judgment dismissed, arguing there was no factual evidence of racism.

Judge Robert Lewis denied the motion.

___

Information from: The Columbian, https://www.columbian.com

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