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Deltona settles discrimination lawsuit with former interim city manager for $45K

Daytona Beach News-Journal logo Daytona Beach News-Journal 5/10/2022 Katie Kustura, The Daytona Beach News-Journal

DELTONA — A former interim city manager who accused city officials of unlawful discrimination and retaliation in connection to his demotion settled his lawsuit for $45,000.

City attorney Skip Fowler said he expects Marc-Antonie Cooper to receive $26,000 of the settlement with the rest going to his attorney.

The commission approved the settlement with a 6-0 vote during last week's commission meeting; Commissioner Dana McCool was absent due to a medical emergency.

Marc-Antonie Cooper © PROVIDED Marc-Antonie Cooper

Cooper, reached by phone Thursday, declined comment.

Cooper initially began working for the city in 2018 when then-manager Jane Shang hired him as deputy city manager. Following Shang's resignation at the end of January 2020, he received unanimous support from the City Commission to step into the interim manager role.

In November 2020 the commission voted 4-3 to have Cooper return to his role as deputy city manager.

He left Volusia County's largest city in March 2021 to run Forest Park, Georgia, — located about 12 miles south of Atlanta — where he continues to work as the city manager.

Deltona's acting city manager, John Peters III, said while he disagrees with the basis of Cooper's lawsuit, he is glad it's now resolved.

Discrimination charge: Deltona's former interim manager says demotion was motivated by racial, age discrimination

Cooper's lawsuit alleged discrimination

Cooper's attorney, Mitchell Feldman, of the Tampa-based Feldman Legal Group, sent a letter to commissioners in May 2021 informing them of the possibility of a lawsuit for demoting his client and promoting Peters, "an older white male, with less qualifications," who was at the time serving as the city's public works director.

The lawsuit, filed in October 2021, stated Cooper's demotion, and Peters' subsequent promotion, in November 2020 was racially motivated.

a person sitting in front of a laptop: Deltona's acting city manager John Peters III, is pictured here during a June 2021 commission meeting. © NIGEL COOK/NEWS-JOURNAL Deltona's acting city manager John Peters III, is pictured here during a June 2021 commission meeting.

Mayor Heidi Herzberg, then-Vice Mayor Anita Bradford and newly elected commissioners Dana McCool and David Sosa voted in favor of the motion to have Cooper return to his role as deputy city manager; commissioners Maritza Avila-Vazquez, Loren King and Victor Ramos voted against it.

Herzberg said by phone Thursday that the presentation she gave during the special commission meeting on Nov. 19, 2020, spoke for itself.

The presentation noted multiple unfulfilled requests, such as true-ups on department finances, that had been made of Cooper since he was made interim manager.

Reached in separate phone conversations Thursday both commissioners Bradford and  McCool disagreed with the accusation of discrimination and said settling likely meant avoiding costly litigation.

Sosa didn't respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit also states the commission violated the charter when it demoted Cooper, who was living in Seminole County at the time, in a 4-3 vote.

The charter states a supermajority is needed to remove a charter officer, and if the vote isn't unanimous, the charter officer may appeal within seven days by submitting a request to the mayor.

Cooper's request to appeal wasn't acknowledged, according to the lawsuit.

The charter also states charter officers must reside in Deltona within six months of their appointment.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Deltona settles discrimination lawsuit with former interim city manager for $45K

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