© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Columbus City Council pays attorney fees for police commander who was racially discriminated against

Paige Pfleger

Columbus City Council voted on Monday to pay a Columbus police commander $216,000 in attorney fees after a federal jury found the Columbus Division of Police discriminated and retaliated against her based on her race.

Melissa McFadden is still employed with the Columbus Division of Police and has been promoted to commander in the time since the lawsuit began in 2018. A federal jury sided in June 2022 with then-Lieutenant McFadden, who argued the police department racially discriminated and retaliated against her.

But the jury only awarded McFadden $2 — $1 for each count.

McFadden's attorney, Samuel Schlein, told WOSU the case will effectively wrap up Monday evening once the Columbus City Council votes whether or not to pay McFadden's attorney fees as ordered by U.S. District Court.

Schlein said McFadden and her attorneys disagreed with the decision to only award her $2 and filed a motion in court for a new trial regarding damages, but that motion was denied.

"We respect the court's decision and we believe that once the fees are paid with this, that would be the conclusion of the case," Schlein said.

Schlein said McFadden having the verdict in place supports what McFadden said and is helpful, but she still had difficulties while the case was pending. He said McFadden's reputation was harmed because of CPD's actions.

In 2018, McFadden was accused of having a "Black militancy mindset" and creating a hostile work environment, allegations that McFadden said were brought against her as punishment for helping another Black officer file an EEO complaint over racial harassment.

Then Public Safety Director Ned Pettus cleared McFadden of three allegations of misconduct because he said they could not be proven. Prior to that then-Chief Kim Jacobs recommended McFadden should be fired following an Internal Affairs investigation.

Schlein said his client is ready to move forward with her life now that the lawsuit is ending.

"(McFadden) is excited to continue serving the people of Columbus as she has for decades as a commander with her promotion to continue to serve the community for which she has served since she graduated high school, when she joined the armed services and continues to do so in a fantastic way," Schlein said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.