City Accused Of Destroying Papers In Discrimination Suit

OCEAN CITY — The civil suit filed last September alleging age bias and discrimination against the town of Ocean City for its hiring practices, which appeared to be heading toward a settlement last week, took a surprise turn this week when an amended complaint was filed alleging the town destroyed or deleted pertinent documents related to the case.

Last September, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Mayor and Council for allegedly violating the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA) with regard to its hiring practices. In its formal complaint, the EEOC charges Ocean City discriminated against airport employee Anthony Indge, 62, when it failed to hire him to the position of full-time airport associate in May 2008.

According to the complaint, Indge was employed at the airport as a temporary line technician. However, for about a month in late 2007, Indge filled in as a part-time airport associate after a full-time airport associate had to take leave. In March 2008, Indge again filled in as a part-time airport associate after the town of Ocean City discharged a full-time employee in the same capacity.

The formal complaint alleges Indge performed the duties of the airport associate position to the satisfaction of his employers, to the point the airport manager told him he was one of the facility’s “more valued employees.” However, during an interview in May 2008, the airport manager allegedly “made ageist comments to Indge, including telling Indge that he had serious concerns about Indge’s age and that he did not think Indge would have a long-term commitment because of his age.”

A year later, the case appeared last week to be heading toward a settlement, but new issues came to light forcing the EEOC to file an amended complaint this week. In the amended complaint, the EEOC alleges town officials destroyed employment records and interview documents even after the suit was filed. The amended complaint alleges since May 2008, Ocean City has violated the ADEA by failing to make and preserve records required by the EEOC necessary to the commission’s administration of the ADEA.

“The records include, but are not limited to, interview notes taken by Airport Manager George Goodrow, who interviewed all the candidates for the position of airport associate, including Mr. Indge, and emails and other documents related to the charges of discrimination and the defendant’s responses to those charges,” the amended complaint reads.

According to the amended complaint, the issue of the missing documents and records came to light during a deposition of Goodrow.

“Here, the defendant, Ocean City, was required to maintain documents related to the charges at issue until final disposition of the action,” the amended complaint reads. “The defendant, Ocean City, has admitted it did not do so.”

According to the amended complaint, the documents and records were deleted or destroyed even after the suit was filed last September.

In the amended complaint, the EEOC claims Ocean City should have known it had to retain the records.

“Ocean City cannot genuinely claim that it lacked notice that it had a duty to maintain and preserve relevant business and other charge-related records under the ADEA,” the complaint reads. “Indeed, this is not the first time Ocean City has been the defendant in a lawsuit brought under the ADEA.”