Former University City Employee Claims Racial, Gender Discrimination

By Holleman, Joe | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

Former University City Employee Claims Racial, Gender Discrimination


Holleman, Joe, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


University City's former public works director claims in a lawsuit that she was discriminated against based on her racial background and gender.

Evelyn Shields Benford was the city's public works director when she was dismissed in October 2011. She filed suit in August 2013 in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The case is set for its first hearing before St. Louis County Circuit Judge Barbara A. Wallace on Monday.

Benford is African-American. Her suit claims city manager Lehman Walker, who is black and originally from Canada, created "an environment that harbored racial and age discrimination that was aimed at African-Americans" working for the city.

Benford had worked for the city for more than 13 years when she was fired. Walker is also a longtime city employee. He began working for University City in the late 1990s as a planning/development director. He left in 2009 to take a post in Evanston, Ill., and then returned as city manager in July 2010, less than four months after Mayor Shelly Welsch was elected.

Welsch and the city are also named in the suit.

In a separate court filing, attorneys for the defendants deny the claims of discrimination. Contacted by telephone, Walker said he does not comment on personnel issues. Welsch could not be reached for comment.

Benford filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in January 2012 that alleged discrimination based on age, race and gender, and also claimed retaliation. …

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