United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
PETER T. CLINTON PLAINTIFF
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY d/b/a MISSISSIPPI HIGHWAY PATROL DEFENDANT
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
filed by the defendant, Mississippi Department of Public
Safety (“MDPS”). Docket No. 27. Peter Clinton
(“Clinton”) filed this action alleging race
discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964. Docket No. 1, at 1. MDPS contends that no
genuine dispute of material fact exists about MDPS's
liability under Title VII for either race discrimination or
retaliation. The Court disagrees. The motion, therefore, is
Facts and Procedure
was employed with MDPS from May of 1994 to November of 2015.
Docket No. 31-1, at 10. Originally hired as a State Trooper
under the Mississippi Highway Patrol branch
(“MHP”),  Clinton moved up the ranks to Master
Sergeant of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation
(“MBI”) in August of 2006, to Lieutenant in 2013,
see Docket No. 31-4, and to Captain of the Northern
Region of MBI in December of 2014 after attaining the highest
test score in the state. Docket No. 31-1, at 11; Docket No.
31-2, at 12; Docket No. 31-2, at 156.
August of 2015, MBI Lieutenant Charles Hale contacted Clinton
about a voter fraud complaint he received stemming from a
primary election for justice court judge in Tunica County,
Mississippi. Docket No. 27-1, at 13-14. Clinton directed him
to proceed with the investigation, but because Hale had never
conducted such an investigation and was preparing to go on
military leave, Hale asked for Clinton's assistance as he
knew that Clinton worked on a voter fraud investigation in
Tunica County for MBI in 2007. Id. at 14. After his
conversation with Hale, Clinton spoke with Louise Linzy, one
of the candidates, to discuss the voter fraud allegations in
detail. Id. at 28.
August 31, 2015, Clinton met with Major Jimmy Jordan
(“Jordan”)-Clinton's direct supervisor-and
Lt. Colonel Larry Waggoner
(“Waggoner”). Id. at 33. During the meeting,
Jordan asked Clinton to cease the investigation and hand the
case over to the attorney general's office. Id.
at 34. He believed Clinton should have ceased the
investigation because MBI had not investigated many voter
fraud cases in the past, and at that time, MBI's
resources would have been better used investigating murders
and other major crimes. Id. Clinton complied with
Jordan's request. Id.
in early September of 2015, Clinton went on military leave,
at which point he received a phone call from Mildred Conley
(“Conley”), Chair of the Tunica County Democratic
Executive Committee (“DEC”), requesting
Clinton's appearance at an upcoming hearing on the
election dispute in Tunica County Circuit Court. Id.
at 43. Once Clinton informed Conley that he would not be able
to attend the hearing because he was on military leave,
Conley asked Clinton to turn over any notes he had from the
investigation in order to prepare for the hearing.
provided his notes to the parties and their counsel. Barbara
Tuchel (“Tuchel”), the editor of a local blog
“Transparency in Tunica” obtained a copy of the
information and then contacted Clinton for permission to post
the investigative report on her site. Docket No. 31-1, at
111-12; Docket No. 31-3, at 184. Clinton responded that he
did not have the authority to tell her whether she could post
the report if she obtained it through legal means, but he
asked her to exclude any confidential information such as
social security numbers and addresses. Docket No. 31-1, at
113; Docket No. 31-2, at 128-29. The parties dispute whether
Clinton actually gave consent, but Tuchel posted a summary of
the investigative report on her site. Docket No. 31-1, at
111-12; Docket No. 31-12; Docket No. 31-3, at 184.
October of 2015, Jordan received a call from Ms. Tisha
Burnett (a friend of Jacqueline Dishmon-Boykins, one of the
candidates for Tunica County Justice Court Judge), wherein
Ms. Burnett claimed Clinton was biased in conducting the
investigation. Docket No. 31-2, at 48. Jordan forwarded the
inquiry to Clinton and asked him to follow up with Ms.
Burnett. Docket No. 31-1, at 63; Docket No. 31-2, at 28.
After Clinton followed up with Ms. Burnett, he reported a
summary of his conversation to Jordan, to which Jordan
responded “Good report.” Docket No. 31-14.
than a week later, Boykins filed a complaint against Clinton
with the attorney general's office alleging bias in
conducting the investigation. Docket No. 31-1, at 61-62.
Having informed Clinton that he did not violate any
departmental policies, Jordan asked Clinton to respond to the
allegations in writing. Docket No. 31-2, at 133-34. After
Clinton responded denying the allegations, the attorney
general's office forwarded the complaint to MBI. Docket
No. 31-15. Waggoner also assured Clinton that he did not
violate any departmental policies. Docket No. 31-2, at 136.
October 27th, Clinton met with Jordan to discuss an ongoing
investigation about a shooting on a college campus. Docket
No. 31-1, at 134-35. During the meeting, a heated exchange
ensued as Clinton complained about what he believed to be
discriminatory conduct by Jordan. Id. at 134-36.
More specifically, Clinton complained about Jordan's
decision to remove Tim Douglas, a white officer, from
Clinton's chain of command shortly after Clinton was
promoted to Captain. Docket No. 31-19, at 2. That decision
was the result of discrimination, Clinton claims. Clinton
also mentioned a complaint he received from Phillip Patrick
(“Patrick”), an African-American subordinate officer,
stating that Jordan instructed him to use all of his paid
time off from work, even though he had 284 hours remaining.
Docket No. 31-1, at 136. Clinton informed Jordan that he
intended to file a discrimination complaint. Id.
October 28th, Clinton e-mailed Jordan requesting that he send
him a complaint form. Docket No. 31-17. Clinton also e-mailed
Colonel Donnell Berry (“Berry”) requesting a
meeting to discuss his complaints about Jordan. Docket No.
31-1, at 140-41; Docket No. 31-28. Later that day, MDPS's
Internal Affairs (“IA”) initiated an
investigation on the complaint that Boykins had filed against
Clinton. Clinton met with several IA investigators the next
day. Docket No. 31-3, at 21; Docket No. 31-21. Three days
later, on November 1st, Clinton e-mailed Berry a formal
complaint against Jordan, alleging race discrimination.
Docket No. 31-18.
November 6th, Waggoner filed charges against Clinton for
breach of departmental policies, including, inter
alia,  insubordination, “engaging in
prohibited activity”, and “breach of Department
security or confidentiality.” Docket No. 31-3, at 26;
Docket No. 31-23. Clinton appeared before the Performance
Review Board (“PRB”) on November 24th. Docket No.
concluded that the charges for insubordination and
“engaging in prohibited political activity” were
unfounded, Docket No. 27-14, at 3-4, but concluded that
Clinton violated MDPS's policy requiring officers to
obtain permission from a superior before undertaking an
investigation that was not a part of their regular duties.
Id. at 3. The PRB did not make a determination on
the “breach of Department security or
confidentiality” charge. That same day, Berry sent a
termination letter to Clinton, effective immediately. Docket
later filed an appeal with the Employee Appeals Board
(“EAB”). Docket No. 31-25. Conducting the
hearings over the course of two days (April 20, 2016 and June
21, 2016), the EAB upheld the PRB's decision. Docket No.
31-2, at 1; Docket No. 31-3, at 1; Docket No. 27-3, at 25.
then filed a “Charge of Discrimination” with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)
on December 18, 2015, alleging race discrimination and
retaliation. Docket No. 1-2. The EEOC issued a Notice of
Right to Sue letter on August 15, 2016. Docket No. 1-3.
timely filed the instant lawsuit in this Court on February
10, 2017, based on his belief that Jordan, who is white,
resented Clinton, an African American, and discriminated
against him because of his race. Id. Furthermore,
Clinton claims he was terminated because he complained about
race discrimination. Id. In support of his
contention, Clinton offers the following as evidence:
• Following the retirement of Maj or Jim Miller, before
promoting Clinton to Captain, Jordan promoted Tim Douglas, a
less qualified white male of lower rank, to Interim Captain
of MBI's Northern Division. Docket No. 31-2, at 11-12.
Clinton, who was Master Sergeant of MBI at the time and would
have been eligible for Captain, believes Douglas's
promotion was a political favor by Jordan to satisfy a debt
owed to Douglas and several white MDPS officers for
“their roles in protecting Jordan during a cheating
scandal.” Docket No. 1, at 2-3.
• Jordan removed Douglas from under Clinton's chain
of command shortly after Clinton was promoted to Captain,
which Clinton contends was a result of ongoing race
discrimination by Jordan. Docket No. 31-19, at 2.
• MDPS initiated its IA investigation the same day
Clinton told Jordan he planned to file a race discrimination
complaint. Docket No. 31-3, at 21; Docket No. 31-21. Until
his termination, in his twenty-one years with MDPS, Clinton
had never been the subject of any other internal disciplinary
action. Docket No. 31-1, at 100; Docket No. 2; Docket No.
31-3, at 11.
• Apparently, eighteen other officers - only two of whom
are African American - who had previously been investigated
for breach of department security or confidentiality received
no punishment for their conduct. Docket No. 1-2, at 2.
Clinton claims the charges against those officers arising
from the cheating scandal were far more severe. In fact, the
charges resulted from allegations that the officers obtained
copies of promotion examinations prior to the exams.
• Clinton was terminated and replaced by Kenneth Bailey,
a white officer. Docket No. 1, at 3; ...