Ex-mechanic Seeks More In Damages

MARGATE — A former city mechanic on Monday asked for more money in legal damages after a federal jury ruled in his favor in a race-discrimination lawsuit this month.

Attorneys for Anthony L. Shelton Sr., who was fired in 1998 from his job as a mechanic for the city’s Public Works Department, have asked a federal judge to order city officials to pay Shelton for future earnings he would have received had the firing not occurred and had he continued working for the city.

Before he was fired in September 1998, Shelton accused his supervisors of picking on him because he is black. In city personnel records, those supervisors accused Shelton of being a poor mechanic.

An eight-member federal jury in Miami ruled in Shelton’s favor on May 10, awarding the Lauderhill man $64,000 for emotional distress and back pay. His attorneys have asked for an additional undisclosed amount to compensate Shelton for future time he would have worked for the city had he not been fired.

Federal law says the plaintiff in a successful discrimination case who has been fired must be hired again or compensated for a reasonable amount of time, said Christopher C. Sharp, one of Shelton’s attorneys.

The city attorney, Gene Steinfeld, said he strongly disagrees with the verdict, but added he feels confident federal Judge Adalberto Jordan will rule in the city’s favor and deny the extra award.

“Quite frankly, I think Mr. Shelton’s record speaks to the reason why he was terminated,” Steinfeld said.

Shelton was hired as a fleet mechanic in Margate in November 1993. His personnel record contains at least two letters of reprimand from Public Works Director Jim Hinds.

“Your history of poor workmanship is well-documented,” Hinds wrote in a memo. “You have previously received numerous counseling notices, oral reprimands, written reprimands, a two-day suspension and a five-day suspension.”

But Sharp and attorney Robert Norell, who also represented Shelton, said their client’s white co-workers were not disciplined for the same mistakes Shelton made.

For example, for all the times the chief mechanic disciplined Shelton, there were few reprimands for his white co-workers, Sharp said.

“Not one of the other white mechanics was ever disciplined for anything — I think one of them was written up for not locking up the motor-pool fence,” Sharp said. “We just showed the jury the numbers.”

Jeremy Milarsky can be reached at jmilarsky@sun-sentinel.com or call 954-572-2020

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