Chuck Lambert, who did not retain his employment with the city of McComb after its 2018 elections, has filed suit in federal court alleging the black-majority board removed him because he was white.
Lambert was the city’s director of public works and the director of zoning and planning. He held those posts from May 2017 to August 2018 while serving at the same time as a Pike County supervisor. He did not seek re-election as supervisor last year.
His lawsuit, filed in December in U.S. District Court in Natchez, said he was hired by a 4-3 vote of the city board, with four white officials supporting him and three black officials opposed. In 2018, voters elected a black mayor, four black selectmen and two white selectmen.
The lawsuit claims that after the election, the new mayor and board held several employment-related meetings, including some with Lambert.
“As a result of these meetings, plaintiff was advised that the African American mayor and African American board members wanted to replace plaintiff with an African American due to plaintiff’s Caucasian race,” the suit alleged. “Plaintiff was also advised that his job performance was exceptional and had nothing to do with the African-American board members wanting to fire him.”
The suit claims that on Aug. 7, 2018, then-city administrator Kelvin Butler told Lambert he had been instructed to fire him immediately. Butler asked Lambert to submit a letter of resignation, but Lambert refused, the suit said.
The city board, a few weeks after taking office in July 2018, formally removed most department heads from their jobs and then reappointed them on an interim basis while selectmen chose permanent replacements. By October 2018, the suit said, Lambert was out of both of his jobs, with no formal reason given.
Lambert’s lawsuit claims the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in employment, as well as two other civil rights laws.
The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount of damages, but asks for past and future lost wages, his attorney fees and punitive damages.
Lambert’s attorneys are Ken Adcock and William Ivison of Ridgeland.