Another federal case hits the school district.

The Twilight District, Episode Nine 

Another federal case hits the school district.

When Robert Riggs submitted a résumé for the job of human resources director at the Kansas City School District, he figured he had a good chance.

Since taking a district job in 1991, he'd moved up to second in command of HR. His education seemed ideal: an MBA with majors in organizational behavior and in personnel and labor relations.

But Riggs lost out to Brenda Thomas, who was hired by the district just three years ago to fill a position below Riggs in the HR department's hierarchy. Thomas then fired Riggs without giving a specific reason, Riggs says.

A lawsuit filed this month in federal court alleges that Riggs lost out because of his race; he's Asian-American; Thomas is African-American. The lawsuit says Thomas holds only a bachelor's degree in English, awarded after she overcame academic probation. The Pitch has obtained from the district a copy of her résumé, which doesn't mention the bachelor's degree or any other academic credentials.

Skin color aside, Thomas has excellent political connections.

Riggs' case alleges that Kathy Walter-Mack, the district's top in-house lawyer, and district meddler Clinton Adams Jr. "pushed" for Thomas' hiring to a different post -- assistant to former superintendent Benjamin Demps. Demps declined to hire Thomas. Walter-Mack and Thomas had worked together at a casino.

Last April, after Demps resigned, various board members -- including Elma Warrick, a political, professional and social ally of Adams' and Walter-Mack's ("Adams Family," November 8, 2001) -- told newly hired superintendent Bernard Taylor to promote Thomas and several other district employees ("Taylor Made," October 4, 2001).

According to Riggs' complaint, district officials never interviewed him for the HR director position, though it is district policy to interview all eligible candidates. Nor, he alleges, did the district officially inform him when he lost.

Nobody involved will comment on the case. But as it moves toward a jury trial, we're wondering whether a better version of the story is already on file at the U.S. District Courthouse, where Judge Dean Whipple's $1,000-a-day patronage-investigation report sits under lock and key.

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