St. Louis Record

Thursday, January 23, 2020

St. Louis County hires outside counsel, will explore potential appeal in $20 million discrimination verdict, spokesman says

Lawsuits

By Karen Kidd | Nov 22, 2019

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St. Louis Count Chief Executive Sam Page | stlouisco.com/

JEFFERSON CITY – St. Louis County has hired outside counsel in the wake of a jury's almost $20 million award in the discrimination litigation of a county police sergeant who'd allegedly been told to "tone down" his "gayness."

The county has hired Lewis Rice law as outside counsel, Doug Moore, communications director in the office of St. Louis County Chief Executive Sam Page, told the St. Louis Record.

Hiring Lewis Rice follows a St. Louis County Circuit Court jury's award to Police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber in his discrimination case last month and signals that case is not over.

"With outside counsel, we will explore our options for post-trial motions and potential appeal," Moore said.

Wildhaber filed his sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit against St. Louis County in January 2017 after a police commission board member allegedly told him to "tone down your gayness."

The same Louis County Board of Police Commissioner, John Saracino, also allegedly told Wildhaber that police command staff "has a problem with your sexuality," Wildhaber's lawsuit claimed.

Saracino has consistently denied making the statements to Wildhaber.

Wildhaber also claimed in his original petition that he'd been passed over for multiple promotions, despite his "clean disciplinary history, excellent performance reviews, and a strong resume for being promoted to lieutenant."

On Oct. 25, a St. Louis County Circuit Court jury awarded Wildhaber $19.9 million, the bulk of it in punitive damages, following a week-long trial.

Shortly after the verdict, Page announced the appointment of two new police board commissioners, Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, pending St. Louis County Council approval. The two were selected to fill a vacancy created by Roland Corvington's resignation and to replace current board member Laurie Westfall.

"These appointments are the beginning of a critical transition period," Page said in a news release. "We will continue implementing serious and thoughtful changes in coming weeks."

Page also has stood by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, saying Belmar "is the right person to lead us through some very difficult times in the history of St. Louis County."

Also since the verdict, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell has announced a perjury probe into testimony during the trial.

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Organizations in this Story

Circuit Court of St. Louis CountyLewis RiceSt Louis County Police Department

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