A $15 million reverse discrimination lawsuit has been filed in federal court against the trust that administers liability and other critical insurance coverages for a majority of the counties and municipalities in Maryland.
The lawsuit against the obscure but important Local Government Insurance Trust paints a portrait of a workplace plagued by mismanagement and racial tension for much of the early part of this year.
Employees at the Columbia-based trust, known as LGIT, said tensions have subsided somewhat since the forced resignations of Larry Bradley, the executive director, and Marvin Turner, the chief financial officer. Mr. Bradley and Mr. Turner are both black.
The suit contends black managers harassed white female employees, and says LGIT's board of directors were aware of mismanagement of funds by black administrators.
The suit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by Nina K. Dix, a former liability underwriter, and Robert F. Mullin, a former accountant. The two Columbia residents are white.
Mr. Mullin, who was fired, is seeking $9 million in compensatory and punitive damages and wants his job back. Ms. Dix, who resigned, is seeking $6 million in damages. Both also have filed discrimination complaints with the Howard County Human Relations Commission, said their lawyer, Paul Weber of Hyatt & Peters in Annapolis.
William McFaul, chairman of LGIT's board and town administrator for Bel Air, declined to comment on the suit or problems at LGIT.
The attorney for LGIT, David Funk, of Shapiro and Olander in Baltimore, would not comment on the suit's allegations other than to say, "We will defend the suit vigorously. We look forward to having all the issues resolved in court. The newspaper is not the appropriate forum to do so."
Mr. Mullin and Mrs. Dix contend in their joint suit that they were forced from their jobs because of discrimination and intimidation at LGIT by top black administrators.
The former employees say in their suit they believe they were discriminated against, in part, because they shared their concerns about LGIT's mismanagement with members of the board of directors.
The suit contends that board members promised Mr. Mullin job protection if he shared with them information about mismanagement at LGIT.
Among the concerns, Mr. Mullin says in the suit, that he shared with the board were a $50,000 discrepancy he found in LGIT's accounts and the existence of an unexplained account with $120,000 in it. The suit says a board-ordered audit confirmed the discrepancy and the unexplained account.
Soon after that audit, the board found Mr. Bradley guilty of malfeasance and mismanagement, the suit states, and forced him to resign. Mr. Bradley resigned in May after accepting a $140,000 payout, according to the suit.
The suit states that the board also found that there was "a pattern" at LGIT of steering outside contracts based on racial preferences for black firms.
Mr. Mullin contends in the suit that despite the board being aware of these facts, he was passed over for a promotion and was later fired by the board and current acting executive director Jon Burrell.
The accountant was fired in May after he had a confrontation with Fitzroy Smith, LGIT's deputy director for liability and property services, the suit states. Mr. Smith, who is black, had Mr. Mullin charged with assault by Howard County police on May 7, court records show.
As for Mrs. Dix, she alleges in the suit that black supervisors harassed her after she began sharing information with the board about her concerns about LGIT's management.
The suit contends that Mr. Bradley ordered employees not to communicate with the board, and harassed white women employees whom he suspected of talking to board members.
Mrs. Dix says in the suit she resigned in April because of the harassment.
LGIT was set up by the state legislature in 1988 in response to the then-skyrocketing costs of insurance coverage for public entities.