Despite settlement, wrongful termination case of former Dothan officer headed back to court

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Montgomery- Even though a settlement was reached nearly one year ago, the wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a former police officer against the city of Dothan is headed back to the courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson Tuesday set a June 30 hearing in the case of Keith Gray, who was dismissed from the Dothan force three years ago. Gray is seeking to void a settlement reached with the city last year that would pay him $135,000.

Thompson also ruled two attorneys who represent Gray will be allowed to withdraw from the case and deposit checks for their fees, presumably funds deducted from the settlement. However, Thompson ordered them “to appear at (the June 30) hearing in order to ensure the expeditious resolution of remaining motions.” Otherwise, Gray will represent himself.

The city was ordered to stop payment on settlement checks issued to Gray and replace them with ones made payable to the federal court clerk’s office. That money will be held in escrow pending Thompson’s ruling on whether Gray’s case will be reinstated.

Gray filed the wrongful termination lawsuit almost two years ago. He alleged race discrimination and a hostile work environment as the basis. Gray was fired about eight months earlier by then Dothan police chief Greg Benton who cited serious violations of departmental policy.

The termination came after Gray was implicated in his alleged ties to a motorcycle club that Benton believed was related to criminal activity.
The case was settled in June, 2015 after the city agreed to pay the $135,000.

Commissioners who spoke publicly about the matter at the time said they believe Gray was terminated for “just cause” but wanted to avoid rising legal bills for the city that could have exceeded $500,000. Past that, no comment was made due to a confidentiality agreement.

Gray, several weeks later, petitioned Thompson to allow him to reinstate the lawsuit. That request, for the most part, had sat dormant until Tuesday.