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Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009 08:30 pm

Ashland employee sues village

Man claims he was humiliated by city officials

He says he was smacked in the head, handcuffed to objects and left there, and his pants were pulled down in public.

The alleged culprits? His boss and the local police chief.

Dale Naylor, a former employee of Ashland’s public works department, leveled allegations of discrimination against his former employer in federal court in August saying he suffered “great mental anguish, fear, humiliation, degradation, physical and emotional pain and suffering, lost wages and other consequential damages.”

Naylor is suing Ashland public works director Ronald Cave, Ashland police chief James Birdsell and Ashland mayor David Handy.

According to Naylor’s attorney, Naylor has a mild learning impairment and a few physical conditions.

“He is short of stature, the fingers of his right hand were eaten off by rats when he was a young child, his eyes do not line up in the same direction, and his voice is nonstandard as to sound and cadence,” says Springfield attorney James Devine in Naylor’s complaint to the U.S. District Court in Springfield.

Because of these conditions, Devine says, Naylor was often verbally abused, hit and humiliated in public by Cave and Birdsell.

When Naylor complained to Ashland mayor David Handy, he says Handy laughed at him and walked away, which Devine says demonstrated “deliberate indifference or tacit authorization of the offensive acts.”

Naylor says he also complained at a village board meeting, but no investigation was conducted.

Peoria attorney Scott Umland, representing the defendants, says Naylor’s allegations were not investigated because he resigned his job at the same meeting.

Umland says the lawsuit likely came about because Naylor was facing the possibility of disciplinary action for an incident in which he allegedly endangered the village’s water supply.

In the complaint, Devine says Naylor was “forced to resign” because the “outrageous conduct rendered (Naylor’s) working conditions utterly intolerable.” Naylor claims he also suffered chest pains because of the alleged abuse and had to have heart surgery.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights concluded in August that there is “substantial evidence to support the allegation of disability harassment” in Naylor’s case.

However, Umland says whenever two parties disagree on the facts of an incident, the department issues a finding of “substantial evidence” as a default position, referring it to the courts. There may be no actual evidence, Umland points out.

Naylor asked the court for lost pay and benefits, plus damages and a year’s pay from each of the accused.

Birdsell, Cave and Handy deny all of Naylor’s allegations, saying any “touching or name calling or good natured harassment” that may have happened was permitted and invited by Naylor’s voluntary participation or initiation of “ordinary horseplay”.

Birdsell and Cave were each out of the office Monday and could not be reached for comment, and Handy declined to comment.

Umland said he does not expect the case to go to trial because Naylor likely lacks any evidence to support his claims. Umland said the case is likely a matter of “he said, they said.”

“In order to get this before a jury, they’ve got to come up with some evidence that’s pretty substantial, which I’m betting they don’t come up with,” Umland said.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.
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