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Dec 22, 2010 11:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

White Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Southampton Town

Dec 22, 2010 11:43 AM

Southampton Town Housing Director John C. White has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court that seeks $18 million in damages and alleges that he was subjected to years of racial discrimination, received lower raises than his white colleagues and forced to accept early retirement after the Town Board eliminated funding for his $81,600 position this fall.

A copy of the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York in Central Islip on December 10, states that Mr. White, who is black, is also seeking payment for attorney fees and costs, a declaratory statement to be issued by the town acknowledging that his rights were violated, and injunctive relief in the form of the town correcting all past and present violations of state and federal laws.

While Mr. White is still currently employed by the town, he is set to retire on December 31 as part of a state early retirement incentive. But his attorney, William Germano with the law office of Frederick K. Brewington in Hempstead, said his client was forced to retire after the Town Board eliminated funding for his position under the adopted $79.9 million 2011 budget.

“Essentially, because he was written out of the budget, he really had no other option,” Mr. Germano said of Mr. White’s decision to accept retirement.

Mr. White, who did not return a call this week seeking comment, filed the lawsuit a year after he filed a discrimination complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, according to a copy of the federal lawsuit. That complaint served as a prerequisite for the lawsuit filed this month, Mr. Germano said.

Town Comptroller Tamara Wright on Wednesday confirmed that Mr. White has accepted early retirement. When asked about the lawsuit, Ms. Wright said she had no knowledge that it had been filed.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who first proposed eliminating funding for Mr. White’s position from the 2011 budget, did not immediately return calls on Wednesday.

In his lawsuit, Mr. White alleges that, based on a series of events that unfolded since his employment with the town began in 2003, and up until his forced retirement, he has repeatedly had his civil rights violated because of his color. The document states that members of the Town Board, including Ms. Throne-Holst and former Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, violated his civil rights and discriminated against him. Further, he states in the litigation that he has suffered and continues to suffer “loss of income, loss of other employment benefits, loss of career opportunities, and has suffered and continues to suffer repeated, severe and permanent psychological, emotional and trauma and damage, including distress, humiliation, embarrassment, great financial expense and damage to his reputation.”

The complaint highlights an alleged history of salary disparities in which “white similarly situated top administrators” were granted better raises than he was, according to the lawsuit. Mr. White’s salary was $80,000 when he started his employment with the town in 2003.

Mr. White’s lawsuit also states that town officials—namely, Ms. Kabot and Ms. Throne-Holst—tried to get rid of him. The complaint cites specific examples, such as when Ms. Kabot attempted to dismantle the town’s Housing Office in 2007. The lawsuit states that Ms. Kabot stated in public that Mr. White was not qualified to lead the department based on his background.

He is also claiming that Ms. Throne-Holst “attempted to coerce him into a forced retirement” under the New York State early retirement incentive, which he opposed.

Ms. Kabot could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

Mr. Germano said the first conference date between the parties has been set for April 20.

“John is a very good disposition—that’s my opinion,” Mr. Germano said. “He handles it well. He continues to perform his job as best he can, and he’s got a lot of experience in that field, so he continues to act on the best interest of the town, despite the fact that he’s experiencing a lot of this stuff.”

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18 million dollars? "damage to his reputation"? give me a break.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 22, 10 2:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
You can't understand it because your not him!!! Give him a break let the case take it course!
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Dec 22, 10 11:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
maybe you should pay all of the legal fees for this BS case so YOU can see it take its course instead of the taxpayers.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 23, 10 2:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
What a completely imbecilic come back, Razza. You "patriots" are against due process? You drip hypocrisy and ignorance from every pore of your being.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 27, 10 11:52 AM
I am against ridiculous lawsuits that wind up costing us money. I would be in favor of the european system where if he sues and loses he pays the legal fees. It would cut down on crap like this.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 28, 10 9:52 AM
What if it was you ar your child ?? Changes things. 25 Million is not enough
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jan 3, 11 1:31 PM
I am against people who discriminate againt anyone and think its okay !!
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jan 3, 11 1:33 PM
Mr White is doing the right thing for him and others that come after him . HE will win , or settle. The law is the law
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jan 3, 11 1:49 PM
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Jan 4, 11 12:35 AM
Really excellent timing on his part. Too bad the taxpayers can't sue him.
By jose1 (28), southampton on Dec 22, 10 3:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Assuming he is right, and was discriminated against, and all of these alleged things happend to him, why did he wait SEVEN YEARS to file a lawsuit? Did his attorney tell him to "build a case"? He just happens to be "forced into retirement" and files a lawsuit at the same time? (For an absurd amount of $$).

If things were so bad, and he was so hurt and emotionally damaged, he should have filed the suit after year 1. What a disgrace
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 22, 10 3:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
He needed his job! Yes it took him that long to gather up enough evidence to build his case against them. Way go Mr. White
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Dec 22, 10 11:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
are you his wife?
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 23, 10 2:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
No his attorney wouldnt take his case unless it was already credible/. His Lawyer is the the absolute best at what he does. And only takes honest cases. What is a disgrace is people think hate crimes against anyone. Is OKAY and fighting back is a disgrace. How much is your soul worth. ?? Sounds cheap to me ?
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jan 3, 11 1:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
No!!! He should have his day in court!
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Jan 4, 11 12:38 AM
Maybe he could also pull a "Kratoville" and his wife could sue for loss of conjugal performance.
By baywoman (165), southampton on Dec 22, 10 7:11 PM
Maybe there wouldn't be salary disparity if Mr. White actually did work. Where is all the affordable housing in the Town? Where is all the federal state and county aid spent? The answer is no where! Just another overpaid bureaucrat who does nothing and is upset when his position is written out of the budget. Good bye Mr White and thank you for wasting more of taxpayer hard earned money on this outrageous lawsuit.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Dec 22, 10 7:11 PM
4 members liked this comment
Now this says it like it is. Where is his work project for the last 7 years. Answer: THERE IS NONE!
By WorkingWoman (5), Southampton on Dec 24, 10 1:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
This outcome is weighed by every employer who hires a minority group member. Does one ignore his race and treat him just like any other applicant or does one factor in the possibility of a costly discrimination suit if one tries to fire him? Actions like this make employers disinclined to take the risk.

Since the rest of the Town department heads are white, did the Town Council hire White BECAUSE he is black in order to avoid an appearance of racial bias? If so, they should take note ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 22, 10 7:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
You would say that. Don't judge him until you had a chance to experience what he's talking about.
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Dec 23, 10 12:00 AM
Without knowing the player(s) or weighing in on the merits/lack thereof re the legal action, the fact is that it is illegal for any government organization (political subdivision) in NY State to discriminate in hiring based on race. Which is what you're suggesting. Which is also racist.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Dec 23, 10 6:30 PM
I agree.
Dec 24, 10 11:00 AM appended by highhatsize
As are Compensatory Discrimination (euphemistically named Affirmative Action by LBJ) and school busing. If the American Psychiatric Association did a psychological profile of the Supreme Court based on it actions with regard to race, it would find the Court to be schizophrenic.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 24, 10 11:00 AM
Couldn't agree more with comments posted here. He has done absolutely nothing to develop affordable housing and had ample opportunity before times became even more challenging. He was incompetent. The taxpayers should sue him!
By SA789 (3), Southampton on Dec 22, 10 9:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
an incompetant employee who has accomplished nothing for 7 years and sucked over $700,000 out of the town in salary and benefits cant figure out why he hasn't gotten a big fat raise and had his position terminated--well then it MUST be a racial thing this is so typical it should surprise no one.

i fell sorry for all the white employees who lost their positions- they have no cards to play

i rarelt see eye to eye with highhat but this time he's on the money
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Dec 22, 10 9:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
He was and is an absurdly over incompetent employee. Good riddens, but I have to say his motive was premeditated the whole time. His Plan "B".

Nobody agrees with NATURE or HIGHHATSIZE, even if they, by chance, get one right ;-)

By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Dec 22, 10 10:15 PM
4 members liked this comment
I'm not here to make friends :-)
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 22, 10 10:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is going to be difficult for the town to defend this, after the Kratoville appointment. $150K with no public discussion.
By the way, I seem to remember that the head of the justice court is an African American. Not the Judges, the head clerk.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Dec 22, 10 10:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Look at your comment !!! You think RACIST people aren't in Town Hall
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Dec 23, 10 12:05 AM
John White compromises all the inequalities minorities have worked so hard to overcome. Being a minority myself working for the town he insults me. Martin Luther King would be ashamed... He hasn't shown any performance results in over 5 years yet cries discrimination. He's what is wrong with the American dream. Shame on him...
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on Dec 22, 10 11:32 PM
Lirider - I notice you had a bad experience on December 9th at a seafood restaurant. I am the owner and would like to offer you a complimentary dinner. I wasn't sure how else to contact you. Please contact me at 728-3474.
By Bullshark (1), on Jan 8, 11 8:14 PM
The real discrimination is in the female administrative salaries... check those against the male salaries at the same levels and you will see where the REAL lawsuit should be filed!! Still legal to discriminate against women!!
By eagleeye (82), Sag Harbor on Dec 22, 10 11:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Dear John White: "Self importance is man's greatest enemy. What weakens him is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of his fellow men. Self-importance requires that one spends most of one's life offended by something or someone."
By SagHarborBob (91), Sag Harbor on Dec 23, 10 5:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
Gee I wish I could sue my former employer after my department was eliminated. But you know what? I wouldn't even if I could. You are not garanteed a job any job. I'm sure that is not in the constitution. Racial discrimination, ha he had a BS job for how many years? He should be grateful he had a job at all. Just another lazy incompetant public service beurocrat.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Dec 23, 10 10:32 AM
It would be great if this went to trial. White's threat is that he will reveal at trial all the sordid details of the how the Town government and its Councilmembers actually function. That would be a real treat.

But it never will. This will be settled out of court for at least six figures. The politicos will never allow their dirty linen to be seen in public. (Sigh!)

This action is a variant of a tort action wherein the plaintiff makes the trial so costly for the respondent ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 23, 10 11:17 AM
2 members liked this comment
He has shown little performance over the past 5 years because he has had not suppot whatsoever from the Town Board. Southamptons affordable housing program is a disaster simply because the Town Board refuses to apply any funds. You can't do that kind of work without funds or support.
By phins (43), East Hampton on Dec 23, 10 11:46 AM
absolutely completely untrue. there is more federal, state, and county aid that flows into the town with no strings attached other than to provide housing and improvements to those who qualify or cannot afford it than you can shake a stick at. unfortunately rather than be proactive with that the money sits in the bank unused.
why is it that no profits in the Town can get affordable housing built and the Town can't?
What about all the parcels of land the County gave to the Town how many years ...more
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Dec 23, 10 7:50 PM
It would be easy. Cross out"David" and write in "John". John Whites lane...
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Dec 26, 10 5:05 PM
maybe if the town board names a road after him he'll go away.
By uncleronk (136), southold on Dec 23, 10 12:11 PM
When does a lawsuit become "frivolous"? $18 million dollars is a whole lot of money...For example, that amount could probably feed a few countries for a while.
Are his claims on par with feeding a few countries? I'm just sayin'... ;-)
By Jan (25), Hampton Bays on Dec 23, 10 7:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
$18,000,000 seems just a tad bit excessive.

Maybe he also feels discriminated against, because he doesn't own an 8,000 sq. ft.+ "home"...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 23, 10 9:32 PM
How bout we look at Mr. White's department and evaluate his effectiveness. Lets look at the progress SH has made under his leadership. If we do look the only question would be why he's been employed for so darn long. His first year in the positon we met and I gave him a copy of the Mt. Laurel Doctrine from NJ. He had nothing to say about it as it related to affordable housing in Southampton or did very little to stop exclusionary zoning in this Town. I say just move on John.
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Dec 24, 10 12:03 AM
2 members liked this comment
frivolous. I hope this guy pays for wasting our time
By deKooning (106), southampton on Dec 24, 10 9:43 AM
2 members liked this comment
When you say we, Speak for your self and disciminate on your own. Elect better bunch of people
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jan 3, 11 1:36 PM
The people of Southampton should consider replacing this corrupt outdated and wasteful form of government.
By jose1 (28), southampton on Dec 24, 10 9:47 PM
What is the real need for these petty self-securing beaurcrats anyway. Eliminiate the FAT and the Tax
By jose1 (28), southampton on Dec 24, 10 9:51 PM
The man started at 80,000 a year . Just another beaurocrat taking the money out of the pockets of hard working people . Get rid of them all ... !!
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Dec 25, 10 9:26 AM
1 member liked this comment
Started at 80k PLUS benefits AND gets full retirement AND he's suing the town (i.e. the taxpayers).

Alas, just another self-serving scumbag. Town government (alas, all US government) is riddled with these people.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Dec 25, 10 11:23 AM
... he has to add Jackie Chiles to his legal team.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Dec 26, 10 12:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
"this is the most public of my many humiliations" gotta love Jackie
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Dec 29, 10 5:28 PM
All the more reason to condemn the gross negligence of the Robo Republicans -- Chris Nuzzi, Nancy Graboski and Jim Malone -- in railroading the appointment of Russell Kratoville, a man with a history of employment litigation, as head of the unwisely restored Business Management Department.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 26, 10 12:27 PM
2 members liked this comment
Kratoville s a GOP operative tied to missing and unreported Republican campaign donations in Riverhead. His unqualified, unvetted, uninterviewed, slam-dunk appointment and the utter and complete silence of the three republicans that appointed him looks like payback.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Dec 26, 10 4:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
It goes both ways. East Hampton has had to deal with Dems like McGintee, Hamerlee and Loewen. All unqualified buffoons who cost he town millions. Local politics are more about the individual.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 28, 10 9:57 AM
Agreed. It wasn't partisan, just an identifier. Both parties are overflowing with unqualified, self-centered SOBs.

It is interesting to note that EH has Wilkinson and Quigley, who practice the same kind of power-grabbing closed-door back-room political power-plays as Nuzzi, Malone and Graboski.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Dec 29, 10 2:31 PM
Incredible audacity! This joker had a high paying position in a useless governmental department and failed, so his position is eliminated and he walks with a decent retirement package at our expense. OK, that's bad enough. Now he wants to graze some more at the public trough. How to get seconds? Hmmm, what can I do? How about playing the race card? Yeah that's always good for a few bucks at least, hell, I might even hit the jackpot. Shoot for the moon, scream racism, descrimination, anything along ...more
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Dec 29, 10 8:56 AM
4 members liked this comment
Seven years seems like a very long time to wait to file suit. I can fully understand if he was discriminated against filing suit, BUT shouldn't the lawsuit be directed at those who discriminated against him and not the innocent taxpayers who have no control over the actions of the employee(s). Maybe we should require public officials to carry insurance policies on their actions to ensure all the INNOCENT do not have to pay for their ignorance? Just a thought!
By BeachGal (72), Hampton Bays on Jan 3, 11 12:45 PM
One Minute, One week or seen years. If a human being is being subjected to civil rights violations as in this case. And he has properly complained and well documented his position of retaliation and on going acts of violations under OUR LAWS. of this country. He will prevail in court and win . Many men and women have employment that they have to have to provide a means of support their family. NO ONE sues for money in a situation like this. He sues because ignorant and Higher ranked managers. WHO ...more
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jan 3, 11 1:30 PM
The guy got hired to a useless position, underperformed, and retired with benefits. What's there to sue about? Except more money, of course.

"Public servant" is an oxymoron.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Jan 21, 11 4:37 PM
Leave Mr. White alone!! I am one of the recipents of his community development, and thanks to him I have much needed repairs, some health hazzards taken care of. It was a wonderful program, Mr. White was always available for assistance during the contractor phase and any time I needed to speak to him. I stood by me from the beginning of the job to the end and then some. I can't be the only person in Southampton that was helped by his department?
By Patty11901 (1), Southampton on Apr 6, 11 10:35 AM