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Indiana AG weighs in on firefighter’s lawsuit

January 10, 2019

A state lawmaker and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill have weighed in on a case involving a former high-ranking Fort Wayne Fire Department officer who resigned his position amid alleged racial discrimination.

Elbert Starks, who is black, sued the city Dec. 13 in Allen Superior Court, writing in court documents he “was subjected to racially hostile comments from co-workers which created a hostile work environment.” The case was transferred last week to U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, records show.

In the lawsuit, Starks claims he reported the comments to officials including Fire Chief Eric Lahey and was transferred to another fire station. A fire captain at the time, Starks resigned his post and accepted a demotion to escape the alleged abuse, according to the lawsuit.

He resigned from the department Oct. 3 as an assistant chief after filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws, and the city’s Metropolitan Human Relations Commission.

Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, later sought clarification from the attorney general regarding the word “resignation” under state law.

At issue was whether a resignation of rank is treated the same as a resignation of office, according to state statute.

mleblanc@jg.net

 

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