Officer Alleges Racial Discrimination

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By Sam Jones
By Benjy Jeffords

WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- A longtime Marion police officer plans to sue the city.

Angelo Hightower is currently a sergeant. After 14 years with the department, he says the city hasn't promoted him to fill an open lieutenant position because he's black

“Every reason, excuse I've heard for getting rid of the position makes no sense. In fact, some of the reasons are contradictory. Basically it's just a good way to keep me at what I call the proverbial glass ceiling,” Hightower explained.

Marion Mayor Bob Butler says this has nothing to do with race; the city just doesn't need the lieutenant position anymore.

“If it were a race issue, why would he've been hired to start with? Why promoted to sergeant? Where is the racial discrimination?” countered Mayor Butler.

The Marion city council voted to approve the police department's new lieutenant position just more than a year ago.

But this past spring, leaders suggested the position was no longer important..

“We had that position because the chief and assistant chief were not doing all the things they should do, so the lieutenant picked that up. We have a new chief now, there's no need for the lieutenant position,” Butler said.

Hightower believed he was a shoo-in for the job when Dawn Tondini was promoted to become chief. He learned the contrary.

“I was hoping they'd do the right thing before I took a step like this. The last thing I wanted to do was file this type of action, but they just made it necessary,” added Hightower.

Butler admits part of the decision comes down to the budget. Adding another patrolman to take Hightower's place would cost upwards of $70,000.

“It's a free country. He has the prerogative to be wrong if he wants to be and he is wrong,” Butler said.

Hightower feels he's gotten the runaround, and is more than prepared to be lieutenant.

“There've been many times in my career where I feel like my skill sets weren't valued by the city, the department,” he said.

Hightower is the only African American among more than 30 officers in the Marion police department. He worries this will discourage others from applying.

Mayor Butler says the city does not discriminate; anyone black, or white, is hired.

Hightower will file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and then likely proceed with the suit.

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