“It is certainly a fact-intensive question,” U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said at the end of Wednesday’s summary judgment hearing, regarding the employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a former Darien police officer against the city and officials of the department.
Korone Robinson, who is black, filed the federal suit in August 2017 alleging a number of complaints about alleged actions that were in reaction to a romantic relationship between Robinson and a white officer, Stacy Miller.
Though the narratives from both the plaintiff and the defense cross over similar ground, they’re widely divergent in what actually occurred, the motivations of the people involved, what should have occurred and even the timeline of Robinson’s and Miller’s relationship.
Through attorney Emily Rose Hancock, the city of Darien and the other named defendants — DPD Chief Donnie Howard, Ryan Alexander and Joseph Creswell — filed the motion for summary judgment in June, stating the defendants acted properly in terminating Robinson from the police force in mid-2016.
Hancock said during the hearing that the decision to cut Robinson loose came after a lengthy period of insubordination. She said, pointing to Robinson’s testimony during the discovery process of the case, that he doesn’t appear to understand why a law enforcement organization would want to keep apart two officers, during work hours, who were involved in a romantic relationship.
There was an order in April 2015 specifically stating that Robinson and Miller could not ride in the same vehicle together, but didn’t specify why. In his testimony, Robinson said he and Miller didn’t become exclusive until October 2015 — around which time much of the disciplinary actions against Robinson began to take place.
However, Hancock said Alexander — who served as supervisor to both Robinson and Miller for a time and was previously a close friend of Robinson’s — found a note written by Robinson in August 2015 in which Robinson anguishes over his feelings toward Miller and creating problems in her marriage. Then there was a text message conversation allegedly sent by Robinson in September 2015 referencing a request for days off for plans that had been in the works since June 2015 to take Miller out of town for an anniversary.
Hancock said there’s reason to believe that Robinson and Miller became involved in late 2014, and that others in the department knew about it by early 2015, if not before. She noted there wasn’t much of a reason to keep Robinson and Miller out of the same vehicle if they weren’t already dating.
Attorney Katie Mitchell, representing Robinson, said contrary to what was said before in the hearing. Alexander said during the discovery period that he was only certain Robinson and Miller were dating when they were at a concert together in December 2015. Mitchell said that while Robinson dated white women before, he usually kept such relationships private because of push-back he received from white friends regarding their feelings toward interracial relationships, and Miller was the first time he really took one of those relationships public.
Mitchell added that the reason the April 2015 order was in place was so no two investigators would be tied to one vehicle, in case one of them was needed elsewhere.
There were extensive discussions about what Howard allegedly said in the presence of Robert Gault, who previously worked with the Darien police. Gault said in a deposition that Howard’s daughter was dating a black man, who Howard specifically named. Howard said, according to Gault, that when he found out about it, he ended up actually vomiting because of the news. Hancock said the physical reaction was because of the specific person involved, but Mitchell said Gault made it clear that from Howard’s context, it was about the man’s ethnicity.
Because of the depth of the narratives from both sides in the case, Wood announced she would keep an open period of 10 days following the hearing for supplemental briefs from both counsel, before she would take the information on hand and issue her summary judgment ruling.