The long arm of the law is finding itself on the wrong side of a lawsuit in Norton, a suburb of Akron, Ohio.
Nicholas A. Matheny, a former Norton police officer, filed a lawsuit against the police chief, a police sergeant, a city administrator and the city for discrimination and retaliation, alleging wrongful termination, WKYC reports.
Matheny filed suit alleging illegal discrimination, retaliation and conspiracy.
In 2004, Matheny was hired as a patrol officer, a job he held until he was fired in November 2010, according to his lawsuit. He received favorable reviews from his superiors and was well-liked by colleagues.
In early 2010, Matheny converted to Islam, but did not disclose his new religion to colleagues. He says that anti-Muslim emails had been circulated within the department, including emails from Sergeant Harvey Bechtel, his supervisor.
In September 2010, Matheny distributed wedding invitations with the words “Allah Bless This Marriage” written at the top to two colleagues. Upon reading the invitation, Officer Jim Weiss allegedly made an assortment of anti-Muslim slurs, making negative comments against Matheny’s fiancé and her family, who are Muslim.
Matheny’s status as a Muslim then circulated throughout his office.
Prior to handing out his wedding invitations, Matheny had been nominated for an award given by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for his high number of drunk driving arrests. However, Chief Hete withdrew his nomination.
False and backdated write-ups were added to Matheny’s file to create the impression there was a cause for termination, he alleges. After getting married, Chief Hete and Hyland tried to convince Matheny to quit his job, threatening to place backdated write ups in his file if he did not leave quietly, says the lawsuit.
Matheny was ultimately fired. Hete allegedly predicted that Matheny would be filing a “towelhead terrorist lawsuit.”
“It is simply un-American for a public employer to fire someone because of his religion. Norton officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution. The Norton Police Department’s treatment of this officer based on his religion reflects poorly on its ability to serve all members of the community on fair terms,” said Subodh Chandra, an attorney for Matheny.