A female police captain passed over for promotion to chief of police has prevailed in a lawsuit against the mayor and city that refused to promote her.
Beverly Alexander had been with the Steele Police Department for about three years when it came time for a new police chief. Alexander, an army veteran, former private contractor for the Defense Department and former Border Patrol Agent, was the most senior officer in the Department at the time, as well as chief investigator. Immediately prior to the appointment decision, Mayor Mike Davis allegedly told both Alexander and a local newspaper that she would get the job.
But after Davis allegedly “prayed on it,” he appointed longtime local Billy Joe Stanfield Jr. to the position. Stanfield was not employed by the Steele Police Department in any capacity, but did have some law enforcement experience. He also just happened to be both the son and grandson of former Steele Police Department chiefs. According to the mayor, his other qualifications were that he was born and raised in Steele, had graduated from the local high school, and had volunteered every Christmas for a program that distributed gifts to children.
Alexander filed suit in the New Madrid County Circuit Court, alleging sexual harassment and failure to appoint. She alleged that as the only woman in the department, she was constantly harassed and subject to a hostile work environment. She was referred to as “the bitch,” and forced to work in areas where male employees regularly viewed pornography.
Alexander also alleged that she was instrumental in the investigation that ultimately led to the termination and imprisonment of former chief, Michael Tomlinson. Tomlinson had been found guilty in federal court of distributing hydrocodone and Xanax. Alexander argued that she was passed over for the job in retaliation for her role in Tomlinson’s downfall.
At trial, the city denied all of this. Represented by attorney Mary Eftink Boner, the mayor testified that military service does not qualify one to serve as chief of the Steele Police Department. He also testified that he made the appointment decision the night before the announcement, despite testimony from Stanfield that he had been told five days earlier.
The jury found for Alexander on all claims. They awarded $45,000 in actual damages plus $100,000 in punitive damages on the failure to appoint claim, and $50,000 in actual damages plus $150,000 in punitive damages on the sexual harassment claim.
Alexander was represented by Jerome Dobson of the St. Louis law firm Dobson, Goldberg, Berns & Rich.
Case: Alexander v. City of Steele, New Madrid County Circuit Court, Case No. 09PE-CV00502-01.
Originally published in Criminal Legal News on December 20, 2017.