A former Myrtle Beach police officer has filed a lawsuit against the Myrtle Beach Police Department based on claims of age discrimination and nepotism.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday by former Capt. John Kennedy, names Police Chief Amy Prock, City Manager John Pedersen and Myrtle Beach Human Resources Director Angela Kegler as defendants.
Pedersen said that “we do not comment on matters of pending litigation.”
Kennedy began working for the department in 1980 and served on the force until 2008, when he retired from service. Later that year he was rehired with the department as a lieutenant. In January 2014, Kennedy was promoted to captain, a post he served until he was fired in July, according to the lawsuit.
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During that time, former Police Chief Warren Gall stepped down from his position and Prock, the former assistant chief, took over.
Around the same time, Kegler became director of the human resources department.
“Shortly after Prock’s promotion to Interim Chief of Police, Prock, in conjunction with Defendant John Pedersen, city manager, changed the qualification for promotion to captain by eliminating the requirement that captains within the department possess a college degree,” the lawsuit states.
On July 3, when Prock was sworn in as police chief, an internal job posting for assistant chief became available to captains within the department and Kennedy applied, according to the lawsuit.
Kennedy received an interview, which was scheduled for July 14, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, on the morning of July 14, Prock approached Kennedy, stating that herself and Pedersen wanted to bring in ‘newer employees’ and that Kennedy’s employment with the Myrtle Beach Police Department would be ending. Prock also allegedly told Kennedy that there was no reason for him to interview for the Assistant Chief of Police position.
These actions were in violation of Kennedy’s contractual rights laid out in the employment handbook and other policies, according to the lawsuit.
When informed of his termination, Kennedy was told that his final day of employment would be July 31, lawsuit states. The suit says Pedersen told Kennedy that he “could not have Plaintiff stirring up any trouble,” to which Kennedy responded that he had “never stirred up any trouble within the department.”
Kennedy was told to contact Kegler regarding his termination, at which time he told Kegler that Prock’s actions constituted age-based discrimination, according to the lawsuit.
“Kegler retorted that she would bring the matter to the attention of her superiors,” the lawsuit states.
Shortly after his conversation with Kegler, Kennedy received an email stating that his registration for a previously scheduled city sponsored event in Washington D.C., scheduled for July 28, had been canceled, according to the lawsuit. Kennedy responded by stating that the event was canceled due to his complaints of age discrimination.
“Kegler responded by indicating that she would look into the matter but that the City Attorney, the City Manager, Chief Prock and herself knew about it, but they had been advised not to talk to Plaintiff any further,” the lawsuit states. “This was a pretext as Plaintiff’s complaint was never addressed.”
On July 19, while attending a department-approved meeting in Columbia, Kennedy realized that he was unable to access his department email, the lawsuit states. The next day, Capt. Marty Brown told Kennedy that he was locked out of all department systems including email, the intranet system and the department building, causing Kennedy to be terminated on July 19 rather than July 31, according to the lawsuit.
Kennedy was still paid through July 31, using compensation days he accrued throughout the year to finish out the month, the suit says.
At the time of his termination, Kennedy was replaced by Joseph Crosby, a lieutenant in the department and Kegler’s boyfriend, the lawsuit states.
“Plaintiff is aware that Defendants Kegler, Pedersen and Prock conspired and took affirmative steps to terminate Plaintiff in an effort to ensure that Joseph Crosby received his job despite the fact that Crosby is less qualified than Plaintiff and does not possess a college degree,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants’ actions have resulted in Plaintiff’s termination from employment and Plaintiff incurring great physical and emotional distress.”
Kennedy filed an internal grievance complaint, which was in accordance with the Myrtle Beach Police Department’s policies and procedures, but the department did not provide a timely grievance hearing, according to the lawsuit.
“As a direct and proximate result of the Defendants Civil Conspiracy, Plaintiff has suffered a loss of the opportunity to be promoted and suffered the loss of his job resulting in diminished earning capacity, diminished benefits and diminished retirement,” the lawsuit states. “Therefore, Plaintiff is entitled to a judgment for actual and punitive damages against Defendants on account thereof.”
Kennedy requested a jury trial and is seeking civil damages, front pay and back pay, according to the lawsuit.
Prock was not immediately available for comment.