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O’Fallon police officers sue city, charging employment discrimination

A six-count employment discrimination lawsuit against the city of O’Fallon was filed in St. Charles County Circuit Court on Feb. 12, 2018, per the State of Missouri Courts Case.net website.

The plaintiffs are named as Maj. Kyle Kelley and Capt. Jeffrey Gray, both currently active, full-time employees of the O’Fallon Police Department. The defendants are named as the city of O’Fallon, former City Administrator Bonnie Therrien, current Assistant City Administrator Lenore Toser-Aldaz, and former Chief of Police Roy Joachimstaler. Therrien left the city administrator position in 2017, at which time, she became a consultant for the city. Joachimstaler retired in December 2017.

Legal representation for Gray and Kelley is named as Attorney John Lynch of the law firm John M. Lynch, LLC in Clayton. Legal representation for O’Fallon, Therrien, Toser-Aldaz and Joachimstaler is named as Attorney Jessica Liss, managing principal of the law firm Jackson Lewis P.C. in Clayton, and co-counsel Amy White from the same law firm.

The plaintiffs have demanded a jury trial.

On April 17, Lynch told Mid Rivers Newsmagazine, “The case still is in discovery, and a trial date has not yet been set.” He added, “The plaintiffs’ statements in the petition are true, and the plaintiffs look forward to proving them in court.”

On April 19, Liss referred questions from Mid Rivers Newsmagazine about the lawsuit to Tom Drabelle, the city’s director of communications. Drabelle responded, “As a matter of policy, we do not comment about ongoing litigation.”

Citing several examples in 16 pages of lawsuit text, Gray and Kelley allege that the defendants have a history of employment discrimination and employment-related negligence.

Gray and Kelley further allege that when they raised concerns about such discrimination and negligence to Joachimstaler and senior city officials, they were subjected to acts of retaliation that caused damage to their respective reputations and future employment prospects in law enforcement.

Additionally, they allege that senior city officials, to protect their own reputations, deliberately and continuously hid all of this from the city council.

Specific charges include:

• In Count I, Gray alleged Unlawful Employment Practice [gender discrimination] as well as age discrimination, by the city, Therrien, Toser-Aldaz and Joachimstaler.

• In Count II, Gray alleged Unlawful Discriminatory Practice [retaliation] by the city, Therrien, Toser-Aldaz and Joachimstaler.

• In Count III, Gray alleged Unlawful Discriminatory Practice [hostile work environment] by the city, Therrien, Toser-Aldaz and Joachimstaler.

Counts IV, V and VI were the same as counts I, II and III, except with Kelley as the plaintiff.

For each of the six counts, the plaintiffs were seeking judgments against the defendants to include:

• Fair and reasonable compensatory damages in an amount to exceed $25,000.

• Punitive damages in an amount deemed just, proper and sufficient to punish each defendant and deter future like conduct.

• Reimbursement of plaintiff attorney fees, expenses and costs incurred in connection with this action.

• Post-judgment interest at the highest rate prescribed by statute, together with such other and future relief the court deems just and proper under the circumstances.

Per Missouri Courts Case.net, the overall timeline of actions in the case is:

• Sept. 5, 2018: After a series of motions from February through August 2018, the case was reassigned to Judge Jon A. Cunningham in Division 4.

• Feb. 13, 2019: Subpoenas were served upon the city’s custodian of records for the personnel files of John Neskes, Kyle Kelley, Jeffrey Gray, Roy Joachimstaler, Bonnie Thierren and Lenore Toser-Aldaz. Subpoenas to testify were served upon Mayor Bill Hennessy, current council members Rick Lucas and Jeff Schwentker, and former council member Jim Pepper. Notices to take depositions were served upon Hennessy, Lucas, Schwentker and Pepper.

• Feb. 22, 2019: The defendants filed a motion to dismiss and for a more definitive statement, and to quash plaintiffs’ subpoenas. The defendants also filed a motion for a protective order.

• March 5, 2019: The court issued an order to dismiss the individual defendants Therrien, Toser-Aldaz and Joachimstaler as to counts I through VI [leaving the city of O’Fallon as the sole defendant]. The court denied the remainder of the defendants’ motion to dismiss and the motion for a more definite and certain statement. The court also ordered a new date for dispositions.

• April 2, 2019: The court granted a protective order for the city, Therrien, Toser-Aldaz and Joachimstaler. [In a civil case, this type of order protects the personal information of all parties, such as home addresses, home phone numbers, family member names, etc.]

• April 9, 2019: The court issued an order to deny the defendants’ request for attorneys’ fees and denied disqualification of plaintiffs’ counsel.

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