Former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney has filed a discrimination complaint against the city with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is asking for a $3 million settlement, Brackney and her attorney announced Tuesday morning at a press conference. Brackney, a Black woman, alleges she was discriminated against by some members of city staff and City Council on the basis of her sex and race, specifically in the termination of her contract on Sept. 1.
Brackney is represented by Charles Tucker, Jr. of The Cochran Firm, a law firm with 42 offices across the country that says on its website that it specializes in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. It was founded by the late Johnnie Cochran.
In her complaint to the EEOC, Brackney is accusing former City Manager Chip Boyles, City Attorney Lisa Robertson, some members of City Council, Police Civilian Review Board chair Bellamy Brown and Police Benevolent Association chair Mike Wells of colluding to have her fired.
She is also alleging in her complaint that some members of city staff and some councilors have made defamatory statements against her. Brackney and her lawyer shared copies of her complaint after the press conference Tuesday.
“Chief Brackney is good at what she does, so what did they do? They targeted her for doing her job. That’s what she was brought here to do. She wasn’t brought here to sit on her hands. She was brought here to fix a department,” Tucker said.
Brackney and her representation have submitted a letter to the city with the demand for the $3 million. The offer of settlement is open until Nov. 26, Brackney and her lawyer said. If there is no settlement agreement, Brackney will file a lawsuit, Tucker said.
The EEOC complaint was filed through the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Brackney also filed a discrimination complaint with the NAACP and a complaint of a “hostile work environment” with the city’s Department of Human Resources.
“I get to sit in silence, as the baseless attacks and the public messaging have suggested that my contract was terminated for cause. And this has been demeaning. And if that was not enough, I continue to experience and be objected to humiliating acts of discrimination, continued disparate treatment, harassment and retaliation, all of which resulted in undue stress,” Brackney said.
Tucker said he and Brackney have emails that allegedly contain evidence of collusion, but he said there are no plans to release those emails publicly at this time.
The press conference outside City Hall was Brackney’s first public response to her termination, which occurred Sept. 1. Former City Manager Chip Boyles made the decision to terminate Brackney but had the support of several councilors. Mayor Nikuyah Walker did not support the termination, and she publicly defended Brackney and criticized Boyles. Citing vitriolic reaction to Brackney’s termination, Boyles himself resigned in October and quickly took a new job as Executive Director of the George Washington Regional Commission in Fredericksburg.
Brackney has been somewhat silent about her termination until Tuesday. She has made a few social media posts addressing the city, but she has not said anything overt until Tuesday.
“The city’s response to my actions to rooting out white supremacy and police violence- they sent a very clear message, a message that proclaims throughout CPD and City Hall that the good old boy system of patronage and insularity are alive and well in Charlottesville,” Brackney said.
City spokesperson Brian Wheeler said the city does not have a comment at this time. Wheeler himself resigned in a seemingly unrelated move last Thursday, but this was not public knowledge until late Tuesday.
On Sept. 1, Boyles exercised his right to terminate Brackney’s employment contract not-for-cause upon 90 days’ notice. Brackney, who was hired by the city in June 2018, will be on paid administrative release until Nov. 30.
Tucker clarified that he and Brackney understand that the contract allows for not-for-cause termination, and that they are specifically fighting what they see as a wrongful termination.
In the Office of Human Rights complaint, Brackney names Boyles, Robertson, Brown, Wells, Vice-Mayor Sena Magill, councilor Heather Hill, councilor Lloyd Snook, former Assistant Police Chief Major Jim Mooney and current Assistant Police Chief Tito Durrette as people who allegedly discriminated against her.
Robertson, Magill, Hill, Mooney and Brown are also named in Brackney’s complaint to the NAACP.
Hill and Snook said they did not know enough about the complaints to discuss them.
“I’m still not clear on what is formally being alleged and considering there is likely a lawsuit pending, I cannot make a comment at this time,” Hill said.
Similarly, Snook said he didn’t have a comment at this time because he hadn’t seen the complaint and doesn’t know what Brackney is specifically alleging against him.
“I didn’t listen to the press conference .. somebody sent me a copy of a handwritten something that [Brackney] had filed with the Office of Human Rights. It doesn’t say what she thinks I did. So I don’t know. I don’t know anything,” he said.
Boyles, Robertson, Magill, Mooney, Durrette, Brown and Wells did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
A couple dozen community members came out to watch the press conference and to support Brackney.
City resident Rosia Parker said she came to stand in solidarity with Brackney as a Black woman. Parker said at times she has been critical of some of Brackney’s actions, but she ultimately believes she and Brackney stand on the same side in fighting against racial injustice.
“When [Brackney] first came here, I might have come at her a little strong, but I knew what type of place she was coming to. And I knew it was very racist. I asked her from a Black mother to another Black mother, are you really ready for what’s to come? I knew when she came here, City Council wasn’t going to tell her the nitty gritty of what it was that she had to fight. And being a mother that’s been on these streets right here, boots on the ground for 16 years, I knew what it was going to take,” Parker said.
“Over time we were butting heads … but I would prefer to be on the same line, because we’re Black women, and we’re fighting the same thing for our Black people and Brown people. There’s too much injustice here, so I felt that it was only right for me to come out in support,” she said.
Brackney specifically alleges the termination was in response to her “disciplining of white, male officers for criminal and departmental misconduct,” she wrote in the complaint.
Tucker and Brackney referenced her decision to dissolve the city’s SWAT Team. According to a a city statement released Aug. 20, an investigation revealed that in connection with training and operations of the SWAT Team, team members had been “videoing simulated sex acts, circulating nude videos of females and themselves, … videotaping children of SWAT members detonating explosives, and firing police department-issued semi-automatic weapons, at unauthorized training events.”
The city statement, which supported Brackney’s decision, said she gave notice of possible disciplinary action to a police corporal, who then resigned from employment; and gave notice of possible disciplinary action to two other SWAT Team members, one of whom resigned and one of whom was terminated.
In a Sept. 17 op-ed in The Daily Progress, Boyles said he fired Brackney because he was concerned after at least 10 department leaders said they would leave because of Brackney’s leadership. Boyles said he felt he had to make a “hasty” decision to save the department. Boyles also said he regrets the decision and wishes he had worked with Brackney and city councilors more before making the decision to fire her.
Boyles has maintained his decision was not related to Brackney’s decision to discipline and terminate members of the SWAT Team, and that he supported her in that decision.
Boyles stated in the op-ed that the results of an internal survey and a survey conducted by the Police Benevolent Association influenced his decision.
During the press conference, Tucker alleged the PBA survey was “fake.” Brackney said it is unclear who the survey was sent to and if the responses actually came from CPD officers.
During an Oct. 4 City Council meeting, Walker played a recording she had made of Boyles that revealed he believed Wells and the PBA had an agenda to get Brackney fired.
“All he has in his sights is the chief’s badge,” Boyles said of Wells in Walker’s recording. “I think he could care less about the officers. He’s on a mission.”
Boyles later resigned from his position on Oct. 12, citing “public disparagement” and a “broken relationship” with Walker following his decision to fire Brackney.
Walker had already withdrawn from her re-election campaign on Sept. 8, partially citing Brackney’s termination and how both Boyles and city councilors handled it.
Going forward, Tucker said the city has to make a decision about whether to settle. If the city doesn’t agree to the settlement, Brackney and Tucker intend to move forward with a lawsuit.
“If the city fails to settle this matter quickly, we’ll be taking additional action and filing a case in federal court. We have the documentation supported to charge, the first step will be awaiting for right to sue letter. So there is a time clock on the city’s opportunity to make it right. And we’re not going to sit around and do nothing,” Tucker said.