Vancouver officer gets $1.65M in race discrimination lawsuit

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by By TERESA BLACKMAN / KGW.com

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 2:14 PM

VANCOUVER, Wash. - A Vancouver police officer settled a federal case involving race discrimination and the City of Vancouver for $1.65 million.

The lawsuit was filed by officer Navin Sharma against the City of Vancouver, the city manager and the former police chief.

After a court-mandated mediation session, Sharma's attorneys negotiated a $1,650,000 settlement. In addition, Sharma's personnel file will reflect that he retired in good standing and the city must also replace any state employee retirement benefit contributions that were lost while the case was pending.

Attorney Scott Blankenship said court documents, depositions and sworn statements filed in the case chronicled "an eight-year vendetta toward Sharma."

He said the harassment did not end after race discrimination allegations lodged with the EEOC ended with a federal court settlement in 2001.

A statement released to the media by Sharma's lawyers Tuesday said a city/county department manager "referred to Sharma as "the sand nigger who sued the City and won," following the 2001 settlement, and although other employees reported it, nothing was done.

"Sharma was routinely referred to within the City Attorney's Office as 'Sharmageddon.' He also received racially explicit telephone messages and profane images-including a photocopy of a middle finger 'flipping the bird' on his car windshield," the statement went on to say.

The 2006 lawsuit alleged that despite countless complaints to police command and city officials, no meaningful steps were taken to end the retaliation and harassment.

Officer Sharma was eventually fired in 2006 because of alleged errors in his DUI arrest reports but his attorneys argued that these errors were not serious enough to cause him to lose his job and his firing was linked to the past harassment and retaliation.

The trial would have begun in October if a settlement had not been reached.

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