A wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Lawrence police sergeant who was fired in the wake of a ticket-fixing scandal is moving forward despite requests to dismiss the complaints filed by the city of Lawrence and Police Chief Tarik Khatib.
In January, a federal judge denied most of a request by the city and Khatib to dismiss claims from Michael Monroe that include termination without due process and racial discrimination.
The judge, Eric Melgren, dismissed the discrimination claim against Khatib only as it concerned his role as police chief but kept in place a complaint against Khatib as an individual. In doing so, the court said complaints against both a municipality and municipal officers were redundant. Melgren did not dismiss the racial discrimination complaint against Khatib as an individual because Khatib made the initial decision to fire Monroe in February 2012 and because Monroe alleged that white employees were treated differently.
City Manager David Corliss declined to comment Thursday, saying the city does not comment on litigation matters.
Sean Sturdivan, an attorney representing the city and Khatib, said they were pleased the court dismissed the official capacity cause of action against Khatib.
“We intend to continue to vigorously defend this case and remain confident that the court or a jury will find that the city of Lawrence and Chief Khatib acted reasonably, appropriately and legally with respect to Mike Monroe’s termination of employment,” Sturdivan said.
Isaac Keppler, an attorney representing Monroe, said they were not commenting on the facts of the case right now, “but we are looking forward to the upcoming depositions.”
Monroe filed the suit in February 2013 after his 2012 termination following ticket-fixing allegations. Monroe had worked for the department since 1991. A trial date has not been set, but a final pretrial conference is scheduled for June 23 before a magistrate judge in Kansas City, Kan.
Monroe, who is seeking $1.3 million in damages, said he fixed two or three traffic tickets over several years for former Kansas Athletics employee Rodney Jones. Jones was sentenced to federal prison for his role in a broader ticket scandal.
Monroe denied that he knew fellow police Sgt. Matt Sarna was receiving KU athletics tickets in exchange for fixing traffic citations.
According to court documents, Sarna requested that Monroe fix the tickets. Sarna, who is white, was allowed to resign from his position, while Monroe, who is black, was first demoted, then fired. Monroe unsuccessfully appealed his termination through the city’s grievance process.