Case is second settlement by white ex-cops alleging racial discrimination

by Robin Kemp

The Forest Park City Council voted Monday to settle a federal employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a former police major.

The item, which was not on the published agenda, was added after the executive session:

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Chris Matson alleged that the city had discriminated against him because he is white. In addition, Matson alleged that the city had held his retirement funds. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Joshua Sharpe that, as a result, he had lost $93,000: “It’s embarrassing for me to have to borrow money from friends and family to stay alive.”

Matson is now the general manager of On Target Gun Club in Peachtree City, where he offers LEOSA qualification training for retired law enforcement officers. As a matter of courtesy, The Clayton Crescent asked Matson to comment. He replied, “I cannot. The matter is resolved.” Typically, parties to a confidential settlement are unable to disclose any details about their agreement.

On November 29, U.S. Magistrate Judge Regina D. Cannon directed the clerk “to serve upon counsel for the parties and directly upon any unrepresented parties a copy of the Report and Recommendation and a copy of this Order.” This followed a November 22 joint status report stating that “The Parties resolved the matter at mediation and are working to finalize all necessary paperwork. The Parties hope to file the Joint Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice in the case within the next month or two.”

Matson’s case involved massive amounts of discovery–so much that an outside firm was hired to coordinate it all. In August, both sides agreed to a proposed confidentiality order because of “sensitive and confidential personal, financial, and business information and records,” such as Matson’s medical history and “correspondence between the City and third parties, which may be subject to confidentiality; sensitive financial documents not shared with the general public; sensitive communications with other government agencies; and other documents related to criminal matters regarding citizens/residents of the City or State of Georgia.”

After an outside audit of the Forest Park Police Department by Mauldin and Jenkins, current Police Chief Nathaniel Clark alleged that Matson had sold departmental ammunition to civilians for cash without following accounting procedures. A check of Clayton County online court filings show no charges have been filed against Matson in the matter.

On November 1, Clark, who is Black, filed his own whistleblower lawsuit against the city in Clayton County Superior Court, in which he alleged several instances of the city’s possibly having mishandled funds, including federal and state law enforcement monies, including FBI Task Force reimbursements, GEMA Emergency Managemenr Performance Grant funding, Federal Asset Forfeiture/Equitable Sharing funds, and E-911 funds, among other alleged financial discrepancies. Clark also named City Councilwoman Latresa Akins-Wells as a defendant, alleging slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The city has not commented on the matter. A source had told The Clayton Crescent that an e-mail distributed within FPPD said Clark would be on leave from October to November. In November, the city quoted thousands of dollars in fees in response to The Clayton Crescent’s Open Records Requests regarding the substance of Clark’s allegations and denied that any e-mail had been sent to FPPD about Clark’s leave.

Clark reappeared at Monday’s council meeting and took part in the police funeral procession for Clayton County Police FTO Henry Laxson on Tuesday.

The city previously settled a similar claim of racial discrimination brought by former police chief Dwayne Hobbs, who is white.

A third former employee, Christine Terrell, also has filed suit in federal court, alleging the city discriminated against her because she is white and because she has a disability caused by a workplace injury.

Mayor Angelyne Butler has denied any racial discrimination against city employees, calling Matson’s suit “a farce” and Hobbs’ allegations “a complete and utter farce.”

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