Town of Beloit police discrimination lawsuit trial starts Monday
BELOIT TOWNSHIP The trial is set to start Monday in the first of a series of federal lawsuits claiming racial discrimination against the town of Beloit and its former police chief.
Town of Beloit Administrator Bob Museus did not expect a settlement in the case. Nor did William F. Sulton, attorney for the man filing the suit.
Anthony Smith, owner of AJ’s Towing, 515 Euclid Ave., Beloit, claims former Chief John Wilson refused to use the company because Smith is black.
Smith seeks compensation for emotional distress and psychological harm as well as punitive damages to deter Wilson and others from making similar choices, according to the complaint filed in February 2010 in federal court.
For six years, Smith requested to be on the Town of Beloit Police Department’s towing list, the complaint states. The most recent request was made in the first half of 2009, court documents state.
The complaint states the business would have been lucrative for Smith, and that Wilson had the authority to include or exclude companies from the department’s call list.
Wilson used the N-word to describe Smith to a department employee and used such language in the workplace, the complaint states.
Jury selection is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Monday in federal court in Madison.
Five current or former employees also have filed lawsuits against Wilson and the town. The employees claim Wilson discriminated against employees or others who were not white and retaliated against employees who asked him to stop.
The cases sparked public concern about the possibility of racism in the community, particularly after a video of Wilson admitting to using the N-word surfaced on YouTube. Many people demanded Museus’ and Wilson’s resignations.
Wilson retired in January, and former town board Chairman Greg Groves also resigned.
In early 2009, the town reprimanded Wilson in writing and required him to take a sensitivity class after the police union in late 2008 filed a complaint against him. At the time, Museus said the matter was politically motivated.