OCEAN CITY – Nearly a year after a long-time Ocean City police sergeant filed a discrimination civil suit against the town and its police department, alleging he was bypassed for promotion to lieutenant when he was activated into service as a Coast Guard reserve officer following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, town attorneys this week reiterated his lack of qualifications, not his military service, was the reason he was bypassed for promotion.
Last November, Sgt. William Bunting, an a resort police officer since 1984, filed a civil discrimination suit in U.S. District Court against his employer and the town of Ocean City seeking an immediate promotion to lieutenant and $350,000 in lost wages, compensation and other benefits because he was allegedly passed over because of his status as a reserve officer with the Coast Guard.
According to the complaint, Bunting was first denied promotion to lieutenant in 2004 when he returned to the OCPD after being called into active duty with the Coast Guard in 2002 in wake of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. In a second count of the complaint, Bunting alleges he was again bypassed for promotion in 2005 and again in 2007 because he took action against the department to enforce his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) after his perceived initial slight in 2002.
However, attorneys for the town and its police department this week continued to press for a dismissal of the case, alleging Bunting was bypassed for promotion because he lacked the.
“Plaintiff has failed to present either direct or circumstantial facts to demonstrate that the defendants relied on, took into account, considered or conditioned its decision not to consider Bunting in the 2004 appointment and/or not to choose him for the lieutenant position in 2005 on the basis of his active military service,” the motion reads.
According to the complaint, a list of possible candidates for promotion to lieutenant was sent to all OCPD captains in February 2004, requesting they rank the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. Despite being as qualified as the other candidates, Bunting’s name was not included on the list, according to the complaint.
“There is no evidence of Chief DiPino expressing hostility towards service members,” the motion reads. “Chief DiPino’s conclusion the plaintiff did not have the attributes or qualities she looks for in making appointments to her command staff is a legitimate reason for the plaintiff not being appointed to lieutenant.”