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State Settles Trooper's Lawsuit

Sep 9, 2004 | The News Journal

Delaware is paying a state trooper $70,000 to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit once scheduled to go to trial in November.

Cpl. Willie E. Smith will get $70,000 under the deal carried out this week, according to a copy of the agreement.

Smith, who is a black person, sued in 2003 claiming he was demoted, denied promotions and job-transfer requests, and forced to work in a hostile environment after he criticized the state police in testimony during a June 2001 state Senate hearing. The hearing was held to examine claims of racial discrimination in the ranks.

Delaware denied Smith's allegations in court and the settlement agreement included a section in which the state admitted no wrongdoing. Smith sued state police and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

"It is a victory," he said Wednesday. "When it came to questioning my performance, I couldn't stand for it."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in August 2002 that department officials under former state police Superintendent Col. Gerald R. Pepper wrongly transferred Smith in retaliation for his statements to the committee that the agency fostered "an environment of intimidation and hostility."

Col. L. Aaron Chaffinch, who succeeded Pepper, issued a prepared statement Wednesday saying "I am happy that both parties were able to settle this matter amicably and the state police is moving forward as an agency."

Also under the settlement, state police will pull evaluations from Smith's personnel file dated between July 1999 and September 2000. The agency will replace them with a document that notes, in part, that Smith received commendation letters from people he trained at the state police academy. Martin said the paperwork being pulled included baseless statements critical of Smith's performance.

"It's good to see there's been some closure brought to this because I know it's been painful for both sides," Sgt. Bernard Miller, president of the United Troopers Alliance, said Wednesday. The Alliance is an organization of black troopers.

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