A federal jury found DeKalb County, former CEO Vernon Jones and two other ex-officials guilty of discriminating against two White former Parks and Recreation Department managers based on race and awarded them $185,000 in damages on April 1.
The jury ordered damages to John Drake and the estate of Michael Bryant, who died in February, in the amount of $74,000 from the county, $55,500 from former Parks Department Director Marilyn Boyd Drew and $27,750 each from Jones and his former executive assistant, Richard Stogner.
The jury found no evidence of wrongdoing against former parks managers Becky Kelley and Herbert Lowe. The jury cleared defendant Morris Williams, who was an assistant county administrator and now serves as chief of staff for the Board of Commissioners, of any wrongdoing.
The county would be liable for most of the damages. When it comes to the payment of legal judgments, the DeKalb code states it shall pay up to $50,000 on behalf of an individual employee or a total of $200,000 on behalf of multiple employees being defended in the same case.
That doesn’t include legal fees. The bill for the county’s legal defense was at $2.54 million as of January, long before the trial started, and the plaintiffs’ attorneys said their fees were expected to be at least $2 million.
Jones posed for cameras but wouldn’t comment on the verdict, saying he planned a press conference on April 2. His lead attorney, Brent Wilson, said no decisions had been made about a possible appeal.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, led by former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, argued that the White managers were demoted, stripped of their job duties, humiliated and had their careers with the county ruined under a scheme to replace them with Blacks.
The defense denied the charges, characterizing the complaints as "petty workplace grievances" that had nothing to do with race, and arguing the White managers saw no loss in pay or benefits.