On Thursday, July 18, a lawsuit against the city of Taylor came to an end and resulted in an order to pay $21,237 to Jacky Jones of JJ Services, a licensed septic pumping company,
In 2017, Jones filed a lawsuit against the city of Taylor in federal court because he wasn’t allowed to dump waste from his septic pumping business as often as “white-owned” companies.
"The employees that ran the Mustang Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant racially discriminated against Mr. Jones by refusing to allow him to dump his septic there for a period of approximately three years," said Rodger Borgelt, attorney for JJ Services. "It was on the basis of his race that he was excluded and [the court] awarded him lost profits damages."
According to the lawsuit, Jones’ problems began in March 2013, when he tried to dump waste at the Mustang Creek Wastewater Treatment facility, which is supposed to be used by licensed companies similar to Jones’.
The lawsuit says Danny Thomas, the then utility manager, Robert Walla, former facility manager, and Joel Graham, a city employee, were “highly aggressive, verbally abusive and unprofessional” when dealing with Jones.
The lawsuit says the employees at the facility illegally limited access to Jones to once a week, while other companies were allowed to dump with no limitations, including several companies that were unlicensed.
The lawsuit also refers to an incident in March 2013 when Jones was working outside the Lucky Duck Café in Taylor, where Walla drove up in a city of Taylor vehicle and asked Jones, “What the (expletive) are you doing dumping 11 times in a month? I told you once a week.”
The lawsuit says at the end of the conversation, Walla told Jones he did not care who he told because these were his “(expletive) licenses,” and he did not want Jones at the facility.
"It's just really sad that people can say things like that and take actions like that and get away with it for so long," Borgelt said. "It's taken all of the court proceeding to bring it light and bring it to justice."
Originally, Jones asked for equal access to the facility and $241,740 in damages in lost business.
Borgelt said he is happy with the verdict, and hopes that this will show others that discrimination is inexcusable and people will be brought to justice.
"Although it's sad to see something like this going on in the 21st century, it's nice to see that justice can still be done about something like this," he said.
He said there was an attempt to resolve the lawsuit informally, but instead went to trial.
"It's of vindication of something [Jones] has been saying and trying to get rectified with the city of Taylor for sometime," he said. "He tried to do it quietly and do it through friends . . . finally, we just had to file a lawsuit."
Although City Manager Brian LaBorde was not in his position when the incident happened, he plans to increase training and awareness.
"It is crucial that we provide continuous training, not just at the supervisor level, but at all levels on discrimination prevention, sexual harassment and preventing a hostile work environment," he said.
He also said staff would be trained on emotional intelligence.
"Vulgarities were exchanged, and that's when an individual needs to have themselves stop and think before they speak," LaBorde said. "We need to stress that."
He said this would help staff members who engage with the public to prevent heated and emotional exchanges.
According to LaBorde, at the time of the incident there was no policy in place for dumping.
"While there is now an ordinance in place for that type of service, I want to look at all areas of the city to make sure we have standard and proper procedures in place so we don't put our staff in that arbitrary decision making [situation]," he said.
LaBorde said he wants to make sure that nothing like this happens to anyone again.