Verdict May Have Denton Taxpayers Footing Bill For Lawsuit
DENTON COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Comments made by a county worker and the verdict in a federal racial discrimination suit may wind up costing Denton County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The county was sued over the remarks, which posed an interesting situation since leaders reportedly dropped the liability insurance that would have paid for a jury award.
It all began in April 2009 when Nadiya Boldware, a newly-hired African-American lawyer, was working in the misdemeanor section of the Denton County District Attorney’s office.
“It wasn’t how I envisioned starting my career,” she told CBS 11 News, speaking of the events that led up to the suit.
Boldware said she was stunned when a supervisor blurted out his thoughts on a case unrelated to hers, one that involved an African-American defendant.
Boldware says at the time she was the only black attorney in that section of the DA’s office.
“He [the co-worker] also expressed his anger in understanding why people would hang people from trees and it made him want to put on his ‘white pointy’ hat,” she recalled.
Boldware said she was so taken aback that she reported the incident. The supervisor was ordered to take sensitivity training, then little else, she said.
“There were steps taken but it was never truly remedied,” she said. “Things continued over the course of some months, and it was a strain on me and my work environment.”
After eight months Boldware said she’d had enough, and sued. She hired veteran Denton attorney William Trantham to carry the case.
“This one was like the cases we used to try in 1983, ’82. Which was just outright in your face racism. So really, this is a ‘throwback,’” he said, adding, “It’s been a long time since the county’s had to face anything this serious.”
Trantham and fellow attorney Chris Raesz took the case to federal court in Sherman.
“I don’t believe our client felt a fair investigation had been conducted into the statements that she believed were racist, in the environment,” Raesz told CBS 11 News.
On June 21 a jury agreed Boldware had been wronged and awarded her $510,00 for what attorney Raesz characterizes as “mental anguish.”
And now it seems county taxpayers are on the hook for both the award and attorneys’ fees because, as Raesz explained, Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson dropped his office’s liability insurance coverage.
“Apparently Mr. Johnson’s administration determined they wanted more staff and they traded the insurance payment for the staffing,” Raesz opined.
CBS 11 News tried to get reaction from the Denton District Attorney but he wasn’t in and neither was his media representative.
While CBS 11 was told no one else in the DA’s off was authorized to talk – across the county taxpayers are talking.
“I think it’s wrong. I think People in the office should’ve known better. They should’ve covered themselves and covered us better,” Denton resident Shirley Paul said. “And now they’re going to ask us to pay back what they lost through their own negligence? And we’re going to pay it? That’s wrong.”
Denton resident Vickey Wilkerson agreed saying, “Especially if it’s coming out of my pocket. It’s pretty bad.”
Boldware still works in the Denton County DA’s office, but in another division.
“I’ve definitely turned a corner in this process and can walk away from it because this is all I’ve known for the last three years,” she said. “I don’t know what it means for my job; I know my employers say I have a position, I have a job there but I do have to make a decision that’s best for me and my family, and I definitely don’t want to be a distraction to my co-workers.”
Whatever happens, Boldware says next week will be a new start.
“I hope this Monday is definitely better than the last.”
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