Former McComb city prosecutor David Brewer filed suit against the city in federal district court on Aug. 22, alleging his replacement after the start of this term of office was a matter of racial discrimination.
Former public works director Chuck Lambert took another route to challenge the city, filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year.
Brewer, who is white, alleges that the vote by four black selectmen — Ronnie Brock, Donovan Hill, Devante Johnson and Shawn Williams — to replace him with Dawn Stough, a black female, was made without cause other than racial animus.
He also claims that he was more qualified than Stough, who has since resigned the position that remains open. Angela Miller is serving as interim prosecutor.
He notes that three other white employees were replaced at the same meeting, on Aug. 28, 2018.
His lawsuit says the white board attorney, police chief and a deputy city clerk were also replaced at that meeting. While board attorney Wayne Dowdy and Police Chief Scott McKenzie, both white, were replaced by African-Americans Angela Cockerham and Damian Gatlin, respectively, no deputy city clerk was recorded as released in Enterprise-Journal articles.
The same meeting did see white City Judge Danny Smith replaced by Michael Shareef of Magnolia, who is black. However, Shareef later backed out of the job, and Brandon Frazier, the white environmental judge, was elevated to city judge.
Also during that meeting, then-City Administrator Kelvin Butler, City Clerk Servia Fortenberry, deputy clerks Nacole Garner, Rosezea Scott and Latonya Bates and Public Defender Paul Luckett were all retained.
Brewer declined to comment, citing the advice of his attorney.
About a month later, the city board took action on several other department heads. Fire Chief Gary McKenzie and then-recreation director Ron Kessler, both white, were retained in their positions, while Lambert, a white male, was replaced by Alice Barnes, a black female who was serving as Magnolia’s public works director.
Janice Dillon, a black female, was demoted when the Department of Finance was moved from independent status back to supervision by the city clerk and the title of finance director was eliminated.
Lambert said he is waiting to hear from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on a wrongful termination complaint he filed against the city in February.
“We are waiting for a resolution to that complaint from EEOC,” Lambert said Wednesday. “There’s been no response from EEOC at this time.”
City board members Tuesday night were told that they had received no communication about the filing from the EEOC.
In September 2018, the city board voted 3-3 to terminate Lambert, and Mayor Quordiniah Lockley broke the tie. The vote fell along racial lines, and Lambert alleges racial discrimination in his complaint.
One of the votes in Lambert’s favor came from Selectman Shawn Williams, who is black.
Lambert said the EEOC can do one of three things: determine that there was evidence of racial discrimination, that there was no such evidence, or make no determination.
If it finds there was racial discrimination, Lambert can then file a lawsuit against the city in federal court.
Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said he could not comment on ongoing litigation.
Ernest Herndon contributed to this report.