City denies claims in Davis-Jones lawsuit

Attorneys for the city of Pine Bluff have denied allegations made by former police chief Brenda Davis-Jones in her federal discrimination lawsuit against the city.

Davis-Jones claims in the suit that she was discriminated against because she is a black female, and because she opposed discriminatory practices.

The city’s response, prepared by Little Rock attorney David M. Fuqua, denies Davis-Jones’ claim that she “instituted several changes within the department that resulted in a more efficient police department.”

Regarding her claim that the number of African-American police officers increased significantly during Davis-Jones tenure, the city admits that, but says the numbers and percentages fluctuated because of the loss of officers and the hiring of officers.

The city also denies a claim by Davis-Jones that the current chief, Jeff Hubanks, “is less qualified than her,” but admits that Davis-Jones has more degrees.

Davis-Jones was fired Jan. 1 by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, who said in her termination letter that “she wanted to take the city in a different direction,” according to Davis-Jones’ lawsuit.

An amended complaint filed by Davis-Jones also mentions former officer Chris Powell, who was president of the Police Officers Benevolent Assoociation and who, according to Davis-Jones, campaigned for Hollingsworth.

Powell was fired after a three-member civilian panel heard his appeal of a suspension he had been given for alleged sexual harassment against a female officer he was training.

Powell has since filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court seeking reinstatement.

While Powell was still president of the PBA, the organization’s members cast a no-confidence vote against Davis-Jones, a vote that Davis-Jones says in the amended complaint involved “six Caucasian officers.”

Hollingsworth also was named in Davis-Jones’ lawsuit. The city’s response contends that the mayor is entitled to qualified immunity from damages.

In addition, the city says Davis-Jones’ suit “fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted,” and that the claims may be barred by any or all of the affirmative defenses set out in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, but those cannot be determined until the city completes the discovery process.

Davis-Jones is seeking reinstatement, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and an admission that she was discriminated against by the city.

The case is set for a jury trial sometime during the week of Nov. 17, 2014, in the federal courtroom at Pine Bluff with Judge Leon Holmes presiding.