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Federal judge gives reasoning for dismissing Brackney's suit

Moon filed the opinion in the Western District of Virginia on Jan. 20.
Public Access to Court Electronic Records
Moon filed the opinion in the Western District of Virginia on Jan. 20.

HOST INTRO: A federal judge has dismissed the former Charlottesville Police Chief's $10 million lawsuit against the city and various officials. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon issued a 39-page memorandum opinion on Friday, dismissing the case.

Former Police Chief RaShall Brackney-Wheelock had alleged that the city of Charlottesville, nine current or former city officials, and a police union leader discriminated against her based on race, color, and gender; and broke other laws.

Moon's opinion breaks down his reasons for dismissing each claim. In one, against the city as a whole, Brackney asserted that she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on race, color and gender. However, Moon wrote that "rude treatment by coworkers" and "personality conflict with one's supervisor" do not rise to the legal standards of a hostile work environment.

Regarding statements that Mayor Lloyd Snook and former City Manager Chip Boyles made to the media about Brackney, Moon did not find them to be defamatory because there was no evidence that they knowingly made false statements or acted with actual malice.

For Brackney to prove that she was discriminated against, when there is a lack of evidence like explicitly racist comments, she had to demonstrate that other, similar employees, who were not Black women, were treated differently at the end of their employment. She cited six former city employees who were white men, who she said were not put through the same adverse experiences she was, including having her access to city buildings and systems revoked. However, Moon wrote that none of them had been the police chief or were fired, so they are not fair comparisons.

As for Boyles, who actually fired Brackney, Moon notes that he had [quote] "the unconditional right to terminate her employment agreement, without giving cause." [end quote] Brackney had argued that Boyles and other officials had ulterior motives for firing her, but Moon did not see evidence to back that claim.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.
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