City offers $165K settlement in discrimination case 

The city has reached a $165,000 settlement with three former police officers who accused their manager, a newly promoted sergeant, of discriminatory behavior.

Former officers Keith Butler, Joe Hinkston and Kenneth Clayton filed the lawsuit against Menlo Park and Sgt. Ron Prickett in late 2006.

In their complaint, the trio accused police department leaders of singling them out — they were the only black officers on the force — and of assigning them to Prickett, who had recently been promoted and was allegedly known to be prejudiced against minorities, said the officers’ attorney, Wendy Bemis.

"He told them they couldn’t use slang, that they had to perform for him and make him look good, and he controlled whether they could eat [meals] together," Bemis said.

Menlo Park offered the settlement because it would be less costly than litigation, said Suzanne Solomon, litigation counsel for the city.

Solomon would not disclose exactly how much money it would have cost the city to fight the lawsuit in court.

"The city does not admit any liability or wrongdoing," Solomon said.

Butler, Hinkston and Clayton made an initial complaint in 2005 about Prickett’s behavior. Menlo Park placed the sergeant on administrative leave and hired an independent investigator, who found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Prickett was then reinstated, said Solomon.

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Beth Winegarner

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