A state Court of Appeals panel has decided that a black Pierce County corrections officer passed over for promotion should be able to present his discrimination claims to a jury.
The three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals, Division II, released its opinion Wednesday.
The majority’s author, Justice Robin Hunt, wrote that Jason Haley has presented enough evidence that his disqualification for promotion was based on race that he should get a trial.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz threw out Haley’s claims without a trial in March 2011, accepting arguments from Pierce County, the defendant, that Haley had not presented enough evidence of wrong-doing for the case to proceed.
Hunt, Justice Lisa Worswick, who signed the majority opinion, and Justice Christine Quinn-Brintnall, who authored a concurrence, disagreed with Stolz’s decision, saying there are “genuine issues of material fact” and that a trial is necessary.
“Here, Jason Haley presented evidence consistent with racial discrimination and retaliation,” Quinn-Brintnall wrote. “Pierce County countered with evidence that it acted in good faith or with cause in declining to promote Haley from corrections officer to deputy.”
Haley, who was hired as a corrections officer in 2006 after a 12-year career in the Navy, sued the county in 2009.
He contends among other things that his goal of becoming a sheriff’s deputy was foiled by a sergeant who first had him disqualified from the promotions list, and then, when he was reinstated to the list, stacked an oral board with members inclined to be against him.
Haley said the sergeant, David Perry, acted with racial animus, court records show, and had referred to him as a “punk” when talking about him with other sheriff’s department officials. Sheriff Paul Pastor oversees the sheriff’s department and the county jail. Perry was part of a team that performed investigations of promotable candidates.
Perry, who is white, denied in depositions that race had anything to do with his actions, and county attorneys argued there were legitimate reasons why Haley wasn’t promoted. Those included evidence that he improperly performed inmate-welfare checks and once forgot to bring his service weapon to work.
Haley countered that white corrections officers guilty of similar violations were promoted to be deputies, while the county pointed out that a second oral board convened after Haley complained about the results of the first board also decided he was not qualified for promotion.
Jail spokesman Ed Troyer said this week the sheriff’s department recruits and hires minorities as both jailers and deputies and will continue to do so.
Haley continues to work as a corrections officer, and Perry remains in his sergeant’s position.Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 adam.lynn@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime @TNTadam