KNIGHTDALE — The cost of combating an ex-cop’s discrimination allegations has doubled for Knightdale this year.
Since Vickie Powers filed a lawsuit against Knightdale on Dec. 20, Knightdale has spent $31,000 in attorneys fees, according to town staff. The town has spent a total of $56,000 in legal fees addressing Powers’ claims since she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shortly after retiring in Dec. 2011. Town officials declined to say why attorney fees rose in recent months.
In addressing ongoing litigation, Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen said only: “We would love to find a way to resolve this, but are convinced (Powers’) claims have no merit.”
Powers’ claims center around Knightdale’s decision to reassign her from from shift supervisor to community outreach officer in 2010 and reduce her annual salary from $71,750 to $62,603.
Knightdale says the decision was prompted by her failure of more than 23 state-mandated firearm accuracy tests. Killen has noted that Knightdale could’ve fired Powers, but, as “an act of appreciation” employed her for another year so that she could become eligible for retirement pay.
However, the resulting decrease in annual salary affected Powers’ retirement pay by a total of about $16,800 over the next few years. And Powers, in court documents, asserts her firearm test failures were the result of working in a “hostile work environment” created mostly by officers Don Ayscue and Ricky Todd.
After Town Manager Seth Lawless granted her permission to train with an independent firearms instructor, Powers says in the lawsuit that she passed mandated firearms tests on Dec. 27, 2010. By that time, Powers had already been reassigned.
After investigating Powers’ claims, the EEOC told Powers that she has the right to sue, but said the agency was “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes,” according to documents in the lawsuit.
Powers’ attorney, Andy Gay, declined to comment on ongoing litigation.