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Spring Hill employee files lawsuit against city claiming racial, disability discrimination

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Posted at 2:53 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 15:53:47-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Antwone Smoot, a nearly 10-year employee of the Spring Hill, Kansas, city government, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city for discrimination based on race and disability, as well as retaliation.

Smoot worked as an IT specialist for Spring Hill from April 2013 to March 31, 2022.

The lawsuit details several alleged instances of racial harassment that Smoot claims violates the city's anti-harassment policy.

In one instance, Spring Hill Police Chief Richard Mann allegedly approached Smoot in a computer server room and told him that he had a problem with the rap music Smoot played in his car. The lawsuit says that Smoot told Mann that the "intimidating conduct" wasn't welcome and was offensive. He also reported the conversation to his supervisor, but there was no investigation or any form of discipline, court documents claim.

The lawsuit also alleges that Smoot completed a background check to gain access to the Police Department building for his IT duties and that he was meant to gain the same access to the building as the records clerks with the department. However, Smoot documents claim that Smoot was made to sign in and out each time he entered the building and was followed the entire time he was present, while other white employees who had completed the background check were not supervised.

Smoot reported his experience at a management meeting, and was told the background check had not been performed, despite previously being told it was completed, the lawsuit says. Documents claim that the background check was later found in Mann's office and that the city of Spring Hill did not investigate accusations of harassment against Mann further, and did not speak with Smoot further on his report.

The court documents also claim that Smoot completed a background check, and Mann approached Smoot and publicly discussed the results of the check with other colleagues around. Smoot's supervisor witnessed the encounter, but no action was taken, the lawsuit says.

Smoot was also one of several employees who reviewed a proposal for citywide broadband and several bids. After the group made a recommendation that the council advanced, Smoot was informed by a supervisor that a citizen accused him of accepting a bribe for the broadband project in the private "Forward thinking Citizens for the Future of Spring Hill" Facebook group, the lawsuit claims. It also says that Spring Hill Mayor Steven Ellis said in a statement that he would appoint a special counsel to investigate Smoot's involvement, and later found no evidence of bribery.

A similar accusation was made against the mayor in the same Facebook group, yet no investigation was held against the mayor, documents say.

In another incident outlined by the lawsuit, Smoot was offered the role of IT Manager, a promotion that included a pay increase, and later waited several years for the official job description to be created. The lawsuit says that the position was retracted "at the last minute," and he was given a new title with no pay increase instead, while other white employees waiting for their job descriptions received a pay increase.