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Fired Durham police officer sues city

11 Nov 2011

DURHAM, N.C. — A Durham police officer fired during an investigation of an overtime pay scandal has sued the city, seeking restoration to her job.
Alesha Robinson-Taylor's federal lawsuit contends she was fired in 2009 because of gender discrimination. City Manager Tom Bonfield and Police Chief Jose Lopez also are defendants in the suit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Robinson-Taylor was fired after senior administrators learned she had collected more than $62,000 in overtime in about a year. That was more than double her annual salary as head of the police department's "secondary employment" program, in which she helped assign officers to off-duty jobs.

The suit alleges that Lopez and other police department officials knew about the excessive overtime and never warned her to cut back. Attorney Michael Kornbluth says Robinson-Taylor was doing two jobs because she also was the department's towing inspector.

The department has suspended male officers or allowed them to resign after being charged with drunken driving, drug distribution, extortion and kidnapping, according to the lawsuit. Robinson-Taylor, meanwhile, was fired even though a city audit found that the department approved her overtime and never tried to find ways to reduce it, the suit states.

City attorney Kim Grantham says officials had sufficient evidence to fire Robinson-Taylor.

The lawsuit also claims that that the police department violated labor laws by putting Robinson-Taylor on administrative leave for two weeks before she was fired and not paying her for that time.