BY ANDREAS BUTLER
When Thomas Huger applied for a job as the City of Daytona Beach’s deputy Public Works director last year, he was armed with a master of business administration graduate degree, numerous certifications and excellent performance evaluations and reviews.
The current facilities construction and maintenance manager, who has a 10-year work history with the city, was turned down for the job. At the time, Huger, a former U.S. Marine, was 63.
The position went to David Waller, a 39-year-old White male a lawsuit states was less qualified, had less work experience than Huger, and has less education.
Waller has a bachelor’s degree and worked for the city of Oviedo as an operations manager before being hired by the city of Daytona Beach.
Suit cites pattern
After he was turned down for the job last year, Huger filed a claim against the city with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) citing racial and age bias.
This month, Huger filed a lawsuit against the city in Volusia County Circuit Court.
According to the lawsuit, the city has “actual and constructive knowledge of discrimination within its ranks and workforce that has been permitted to ensue’’ and “has engaged in a pattern of discrimination with its hiring practices.’’
The lawsuit further states the city has retaliated against Huger “by isolating him, giving him a poor evaluation, subjecting him to ridicule publicly, humiliating him, harassing him, undermining his supervisory authority rightfully entitled to him by his job title and position and attempting to create a work overload for performance evaluation.’’
He is demanding a jury trial.
After EEOC complaints were filed against the city and question were raised by Daytona Beach-Volusia County branch of the NAACP about Daytona Beach’s hiring and promotions practices, the city released a diversity report. The report showed that while Daytona Beach’s Black population was 35.4 percent, only 18.7 percent of the municipality’s workforce was Black. The city’s total minority workforce stood at 25 percent. Over the past two years, just 33 percent of the job applicants were racial minorities.
The city employs about 800 workers.
The report revealed that 124 employees earned an annual base pay between $60,000 and $100,000. Of that number, 21 percent of those were racial minorities – not limited to African-Americans – and 24 percent were female.
The analysis also showed that 25 workers earned an annual base pay greater than $100,000. Of that number, 24 percent were minorities and 24 percent were female.
In a series of stories last year, the Daytona Times reported on EEOC claims filed against the city that charge racial discrimination.
One of those who filed a complaint was Sonja Wiles, a White woman who was part of the team that interviewed Huger for the Public Works job.
Wiles, fired on Nov. 14, 2015, said she was terminated after her attorney, Kelly Chanfrau – who also is Huger’s legal counsel – filed discrimination and retaliation complaints with the federal EEOC on her behalf on Nov. 5.
The termination also allegedly occurred after Wiles testified in Huger’s age and race discrimination case, and while Wiles was on a doctor-approved leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Wiles also claims her First Amendment right to freedom of speech had been violated.
In her EEOC claim, Wiles, who had been a city employee for 23 years, charged her former employer with discrimination on basis of age, sex, religion, retaliation and disability.
Fired worker speaks up
Wiles has also alleged that a White male supervisor and panel member had made racist comments.
In stating that racism was a reason Huger didn’t get the job, Huger’s lawsuit cited that the panel member had stated that “he was involved in the Ku Klux Klan when he was a young man,’’ “that he was scared of all the blacks around Bethune-Cookman College, “that he would never bring his family to live in the City of Daytona Beach’’ and that he has been overheard using the word “nigger.’’
The lawsuit includes that Wiles was fired after she objected that there were “racist motivations’’ for failing to promote Huger.
Huger would not comment to the Daytona Times for this story, referring a reporter to Chanfrau. As of the Daytona Times’ Wednesday night deadline, Chanfrau hadn’t responded to a request for comment.
Susan Cerbone, the city’s spokesperson, also declined to comment.