Audubon Park Improperly Fired a Police Sergeant Who Complained About Gay Slurs, Commission Says

A suburban Louisville police department  improperly fired a police sergeant after he complained about derogatory statements made by his supervisor about his being gay, the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission said in finding presented to attorneys.

Former Audubon Park Police Sgt. Kile Nave claims that his supervisor, Ronald W. Jones, repeatedly made disparaging remarks about  Nave's sexual orientation from the time he joined Audubon Park Police in 2009 to his firing in August 2012. 

Nave also filed a lawsuit against Audubon Park, Jones and others in Jefferson Circuit Court. At the conclusion of the Human Relations process (which also includes hearing before a hearing officer from the state Administrative Office of the Court), the city could be ordered to hire back Nave or pay damages, according to state statute.

In July 2012, Nave claims, Jones unleashed a “barrage of profanity-laced rants” at him. Nave complained to then-Chief Jeffery Cox—soon after, he was placed on a different shift and eventually accused of violating 57 department rules and fired.

Audubon Park denies that its officials discriminated or retaliated against Nave, said Kyle Vaughn, an attorney for the city. Vaughn described the Human Relations Commission ruling as preliminary. For his part, Nave said he'd never been disciplined in more than 20 years of police work and that colleagues in the Audubon Park Police Department vouched for his work.

“It was all due to the fact that I was cussed at and I asked Mr. Jones to stop using certain profanity in my presence,” Nave said on Wednesday.

Jones couldn't be reached for comment. Nave's lawsuit notes that Jones said during a hearing that he didn't recall making harassing comments about or in front of the sergeant.

He and Cox no longer work for Audubon Park Police.

The Human Rights Commission's probable cause finding stems from Metro Louisville's ordinance making it “unlawful practice for an employer to discriminate against and harass any individual because of such individual's sex and sexual orientation and in retaliation for filing a complaint with the (sic) his employer alleging such discrimination. “

In its letter, the Human Relations Commission said: 

“Statements from numerous witnesses indicate that despite the charges brought against him, complainant's (Nave's) performance as a police officer was exemplary. … Complainant and his former co-workers believe that the only reason he was harassed and terminated was due to the fact that he was a gay man who complained about the way he was treated.”

In one incident, Nave claims he called in sick to work and Jones suggested that the sergeant had suffered an injury from a sex act. 

“He would make gay jokes,” Nave said. “He would make comments to other officers about me being gay.”

Other officers have testified in hearing that they'd heard Jones make derogatory comments. Nave also claims that his vacation requests were denied, junior officers would week weekends off before him and he was denied a new pair of shoes (part of his uniform) after a hole formed in his old pair.

His attorney, Bryan Gatewood, said the city was trying to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the he could have both a civil proceeding and a Human Relations Commission complaint. 

Audubon Park is a city of about 1,500 people in central Jefferson County. Mayor Michael Scalise did not immediately return calls for comment. 

Nave is a former small town police chief and sheriff's deputy from Illinois. He said he move to Louisville to be with his partner, Will Smith. 

His firing has ruined his career, he said.

“This is the thing that I want to do,” Nave said. “And, I kept thinking, Jones is going to have enough of making fun and harassing—it’s going to get better, and it never did. But I love this area. I love policing. I wasn’t going to let him get the best of me.”

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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