Judge vindicates Island Transit in racial lawsuit

An Island County Superior Court judge has ruled that Island Transit leadership did not fire a former lead mechanic because of his race or age.

Judge Vickie Churchill entered a summary judgment Monday in favor of Island Transit.

Churchill included a letter with her ruling because “the court feels the need to explain its decision.”

The complaint, filed on behalf of former IT employee Latroleum Lawrence, named the transit agency and former executive director Martha Rose.

A phone call to Lawrence’s attorney Rodney Moody was not returned by press time.

Lawrence, the only black person in the maintenance division, was fired by Rose last year.

The lawsuit alleged that Rose fired Lawrence because of his race and age. Churchill said that Lawrence was indeed fired and was replaced with someone younger who was not in the “protected class.”

However, Churchill said, Lawrence’s “ongoing problems with work quality, efficiency issues and interpersonal relationships” were not disputed and ultimately justified the termination.

“The facts do not support Lawrence’s own belief that he was performing satisfactory work,” Churchill said in her ruling.

An administrative judge, however, did find there was no misconduct by Lawrence and granted him unemployment benefits shortly after he was fired.

Lawrence met with Rose and secretly tape-recorded their conversation, but that evidence was thrown out. Lawrence said he believed the recording showed the concerns about his performance were baseless. Rose later testified that he became irate during the meeting.

Rose hired Lawrence and later promoted him to lead mechanic, Churchill points out in her letter.

“The obvious question is why would the employer have hired a person with a certain attribute in the first place if the employer is opposed to employing persons with that attribute,” Churchill wrote.

A second lawsuit against Island Transit, filed in July by the estate of a woman who died in 2011, is still awaiting judgment.

The wrongful death lawsuit claims that the woman was injured in a paratransit bus after her wheelchair wasn’t secured and she later suffered a heart attack.