It's the all-white-and-wealthy home of America's richest man, the enclave of billionaires and mere millionaires from Microsoft, Costco and Amazon, a town of just 3,000 where presidents go to raise cash for their re-elections. But it's also the place that mocked his Asian ancestry and even the presumed size of his penis, says Medina's former police chief Jeff Chen. Now, a federal judge has ruled, Chen's claims of racism detailed in a new civil complaint can go to trial if necessary.
Chen, 50, an ex-Seattle cop hired as a town police officer in 2001 and later promoted to chief, first quit in December 2010, then reclaimed his job, and was officially fired last April. City Manager Donna Hanson 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.
In his December lawsuit, Chen claims Hanson "acted as accuser, judge, and jury, branding Chief Chen as untruthful and dishonest, " which Hanson and the city denied.
Last month, he filed an amended complaint (below) that cites additional details including racial incidents involving city officials and a group of citizens Chen refers to as "the original conspiracy group." In Medina, he says, "if one is not white then one is different and not accepted."
Chen was the only racial minority employed by the city from 2001 to 2011 except for a Hispanic police officer Chen employed from 2005 to 2009, he says. (Medina also provides police services to its wealthy neighbor, Hunts Point).
Throughout his Medina career, the ex-chief's attorney claims, he "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."
One resident filed more than 750 public records requests over four years, the vast majority of which Chen calls "thinly veiled personal attacks" against him. Another resident told him, Chen says, that when he tried to discuss their differences, the man said he didn't speak to "Orientals."
Chen claims a former chief referred to him as a "smiling Chinaman" and a "regular Charlie Chan." He says he was asked by a city official if "you people" celebrate Thanksgiving, while a former mayor told him, the chief claims, "I thought Asians had small ones, how did you have four kids?" referencing the size of the chief's genitals.
Medina city attorney Thomas Holt denies those accusations and says the city took reasonable steps to stop any kind of harassment against the chief and "made a good-faith effort to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination law." City Manager Hanson earlier told Seattle Weekly her decision to fire Chen was based on the findings of an investigation and had nothing to do with the chief's race.