As chief of Medina's nine-person police force, Jeff Chen kept four machine guns handy to protect Bill Gates and other one-percenters living on the Eastside's Gold Coast. But the real threat, at least to Chen, turns out to have come from within: The white lady who fired him and the "anti-Asian" residents who live there.
But the city has already asked a U.S. District Court judge to throw out the lawsuit, claiming it conflicts with a Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint he filed. The city's attorney also returned the verbal rhetoric of Chan's suit, saying his 78-page complaint is "replete with repetitive and immaterial allegations. The defendants [city] should not be forced to respond to this excessively prolix and burdensome pleading as it exists."
Chen, 49, hired in 2001, first quit in December 2010, then reclaimed his job, and was offically fired last April as chief of mansion-riddled Medina, with an overwhelmingly white population of 3,000. Hansen, after an investigation, alleged he lied to a city official, misused city funds, and secretly wrote memos under some of his officers' names to quash tickets and purchase equipment.
With widespread community support, Chen fought to regain his job but the city council supported Hanson's decision. Chen then filed a $14 million claim against the city (preliminary to a lawsuit) alleging defamation and racial discrimination, although, as Seattle Weekly reported in a July cover story, "As a minority, Chief Chen says there has been only the occasional awkward moment for him, such as when a white town official asked him if 'his people' celebrated Thanksgiving."
But in his lawsuit filed December 16, Chen lays his dismissal squarely on discrimination: "Ms. Hanson's decision against Chief Chen was based on her personal, subjective belief about whether Chief Chen was truthful, and that subjective belief grew out of Ms. Hanson's prejudice towards Chief Chen's race and national origin, as well as a retaliatory attitude Ms. Hanson had as a result of Chief Chen's reporting of deceptive budgeting committed by Ms. Hanson." Hanson told SW last year her decision was based on the findings of an investigation and had nothing to do with Chen's race.
Chen claims in the suit that racism is rampant in Medina:
The administrative leadership at the City of Medina supports a cultural bias that is anti-Asian. This culture derives from a segment of the broader city population that makes it clear that if one is not white then one is different and not accepted. This different treatment has created an atmosphere for Asian-Americans and Asians that is full of tension and a permissive atmosphere for others to intentionally or ignorantly discriminate against Asian-Americans and Asians.
For years, Chen claims, "certain politically powerful members of the Medina community, including past and current council members, mayors, city employees, and citizens have used their influence to carry out racial discrimination against Asian-American and Asian members of the community and employed intentional and malicious tactics to deprive them of their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights." He adds:
Throughout his entire career with the City of Medina, Chief Chen faced a hostile work environment paired with personal attacks including racially derogatory comments that were coming at him from all sides: City Council Members including two Mayors, his Chief of Police while he was Captain, police officers in his chain of command, the current City Manager, and several dogged community members.
A former chief called him "a regular Charlie Chan," the suit claims. He names names of city officials, linking them to racist comments, and cites remarks by community members, calling some of them the "original conspiracy group." (See suit below).
In its response, the city asks that the suit be thrown out because it fails to follow federal EEOC procedures. If he refiles the suit, the city says, Chen should be required to specifically detail his allegations rather than restate his "overly verbose and repetitive" claims.
Chen wasn't the first chief to be fired in Medina. Joe Race, who went on to become police chief of Micronesia, was booted, then got his job back, before quitting in 1997. Eccentrically wealthy "Medina was about the most frustrating of my police experience," said Race. "The department often got requests like 'UPS is coming by today--can you sign for my package?' or 'I got this ticket in Tacoma, can you take care of it for me?'"
His officers also responded to complaints about raccoons eating from the dog's dish and Canada geese frolicking in a swimming pool. He urged Chen to "Make a settlement and get out of Dodge." For him, said Race, leaving was better than hanging around and responding to such calls as "Please take my trash out on Wednesday because I'll be hunting in Mexico."