Civil Rights lawsuit against city dismissed after settlement agreement reached

Eddie Neal, who filed the employment discrimination suit against the city in 2018, states that today's dual promotion of himself and another officer to the rank of Captain is another example of discriminatory actions by the city.

Yesterday, July 27, a Joint Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice was issued by the US District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Gainesville Division) in the Civil Rights lawsuit filed by Eddie Neal against the City of Toccoa.

The case, filed on March 26, 2019, alleged a violation of the Civil Rights Act and claimed the appointment of Mize as Chief of Police was discriminatory.

According to the Joint Preliminary Report & Discovery Plan Document, a part of the case file:

This case is being brought under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant intentionally engaged in unlawful employment practice in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In June of 2018, the City of Toccoa hired Jimmy Mize as Chief of Police. Mize had previously been acting as the interim Chief of Police following the resignation of the prior chief at the beginning of the year. Mize is a Caucasian male and Plaintiff is an African American male. Plaintiff, along with Mize and another Caucasian male, applied for the Chief of Police position. The City Manager determined that Mize was the most qualified candidate and appointed him Chief of Police. Plaintiff then filed a complaint with the EEOC and was issued a right to sue letter on November 27, 2018.

The legal issue in this case is whether or not Defendant intentionally engaged in unlawful employment practices when Plaintiff was not hired for the Chief of Police position.

During a promotion ceremony and press conference held by Mize at noon today, July 28, Lieutenants Eddie Neal and Charlie Littleton were promoted to the rank of Captain under the TPD’s new Leadership/Management Team structure.

Neal, visibly agitated, walked out of the ceremony, accompanied by family members. He returned to the room shortly, but did not rejoin the ceremony.

Following the event, Neal and his sons spoke to ConnectLocal and expressed their opinions regarding the event and the actions of the City of Toccoa and the Police Department. Neal stated that he could not comment specifically about the resolution of the civil lawsuit, but both he and his sons expressed strong feelings about the promotions.

“Unfortunately, there is a whole lot I can’t say because I had to sign a non-disclosure (agreement), but they know what they just did was wrong,” Neal told ConnectLocal. “Two and a half years I’ve had to fight this city to try and get them to do what’s right, and then they walk in here today and pretty much slap me in the face by (giving) Charlie Littleton, who don’t deserve it, like he (Mize) didn’t deserve the Chief position, a Captain’s promotion. It’s bull.”

An audio recording of the full statements made by the Neal family is provided below.

Mize told ConnectLocal that he was not able to speak about the lawsuit, as he was not personally named as a defendant in the lawsuit. ConnectLocal will be meeting with Mize in the coming days to discuss the new management structure and organization within the the department, and how it will impact service to the Toccoa community.

John Dickerson, attorney for the City, told ConnectLocal that he had received notice from the court earlier this morning of the official dismissal of the lawsuit.

“I can comment that I have a court order received this morning with the case being dismissed,” he said. “The parties reached an agreement and the agreement was the reason for the dismissal.”

City Manager Billy Morse confirmed to ConnectLocal by phone that the lawsuit has been dismissed.

“The parties and their attorneys have agreed in writing to the terms, which included the promotion of Eddie Neal to Captain and that also established the management team that Chief Mize referred to (during the promotion ceremony),” Morse said, explaining that the new organization and leadership structure adopted by the police department was suggested by Mize prior to the settlement of the case.

“It paralleled (what the settlement mandated), but that was Chief Mize’s recommendation and I thought it was a good idea and we moved forward with it,” he said. “The settlement, the court documents, refers to – and this is something that Eddie (Neal) and his attorneys agreed to – was that he be promoted to Captain. I don’t believe that we are discriminatory and we didn’t do anything today that Eddie had not previously agreed to,” Morse told ConnectLocal.

“There is a lot of racial discrimination in this city, and they’ve been hiding it for years” said Eddie Neal’s son Brian Neal, who is a law enforcement officer in Lavonia. “Anybody African American, they will not promote under City Manager Billy Morse. It’s been clear for years.”

“It needs to be said, and I want to be quoted that I said it,” Eddie Benjamin Neal, Jr.said. “Everybody knows, it doesn’t matter what you do for this city or what’s going on, if you’re a man of color, you’re a n****. That’s just period, what it is. You can look at this man in a uniform, whatever, he’s a n***** to these folks.”

Morse stated that the original selection of Mize as police chief was not made in a discriminatory fashion.

“I do not feel that I made that decision based on race. I made that decision based on the person that I thought would best lead the police department into the future. Jimmy was appointed as interim police chief because Chief Jarrell was leaving soon, and I needed to get Jimmy in there to learn as much as he could before Chief Jarrell left. He did a good job as interim,” Morse said. “I made the recommendation to the City Commission that Jimmy Mize be appointed Police Chief and, after a public comment period at a public meeting, the city commission confirmed my appointment of Jimmy Mize as police chief. There was overwhelming support from the community and the law enforcement community in support of Jimmy. There were no comments against Jimmy as Chief.”


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