Clarksdale settles lawsuit alleging bias against white city workers but keeps details secret

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CLARKSDALE – Almost two years after three white former city employees filed a lawsuit against Clarksdale alleging they were fired because of their race, the two parties announced Tuesday afternoon that they’d reached a settlement.

Ken Murphy, Ed Seals, Chuck Espy, Bo Plunk, and Willie Turner, Jr.

City Hall

Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy (centered) poses in front of City Hall with commissioners Ken Murphy (left to right), Ed Seals, Timothy “Bo” Plunk, and Willie Turner, Jr. This photo was taken from a pamphlet that gives contact information and services provided by City’s different departments.

Although the city commissioners voted to settle with the plaintiffs at a special called meeting, no further details about the agreement – including how much money the city spent to fight the case – were provided to the public.

“Clarksdale can move forward,” said Mayor Chuck Espy. “It’s all moving in a positive direction.”

Initially, the former employees – Obert Douglas, former fire chief, Joseph Cobb Gibbs, former municipal judge and Curtis Boschert, former city attorney – said city officials made the decision to terminate them after Espy broke the tie that resulted in the firing of the three in a Board of Commissioners vote that split along racial lines. Don A. Dees, who served as judge pro tem, was later added in an amended complaint.

The lawsuit claimed that the fired workers were “more qualified” than the African Americans who filled the positions and that the “…blacks were treated more favorably.” The plaintiffs also said that they weren’t given pre- or post-termination hearings.

Douglass, Boschert, and Gibbs were asking for reinstatement to their positions with full back pay and fringe benefits or be granted front pay, salary increases, awards, bonuses, attorneys’ fees and income lost since their termination.

The plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.

Mississippi Today filed a public records request with the city of Clarksdale for information related to the settlement.