Spindale dispute escalates to Commissioner filing lawsuit

SPINDALE – Spindale Commissioner and former police officer James Hamilton filed a federal suit based on racial and age discrimination from the Spindale Police Department in 2014. Hamilton requested a jury trial in the Western District of the U.S. District Court. . Hamilton who was fired just short of 20 years years service and is African-American filed an EEOC suit after his termination. The EEOC after their investigation declined to prosecute and as is customary in such cases provided a “right-to-sue” letter to Hamilton.

According to public records, three officers left employment for various reasons in the approximate same time frame. The other two officers were Caucasion. Hamilton challenged the disproportionate number of black officers hired and the fact that all of Spindale’s police chiefs have been white. The suit further states he was subjected to a higher level of performance than other officers due to his race. He is seeking lost wages, benefits, and damages for public humiliation, emotional stress and anxiety.

Hamilton was fired over the events in questioning his alleged non-response to a dispatcher’s request to check the Pro Rent All building.  The then empty building’s alarms had gone off several times in the early morning hours. Since Rutherfordton Police Department shares a reciprocal agreement in fire and police responses, they were reported on site on at least one call.

The Town of Spindale attorney has not yet responded to the suit which was filed July 24, 2017.

Spindale Commissioner James Hamilton won election to the Council in a 2015 write-in campaign vote. An examination of the results of that election show that there was a large segment of voters who only voted for one candidate while there were other seats open.

Since then there have been several background activities that increased the tension between Hamilton and Chief Eric Shelton.

  • Hamilton posted wrecked police car photos on Facebook
  • Hamilton questioned Shelton’s testimony in court
  • Hamilton monitored Shelton’s activities and performance despite the fact Shelton reports to the town manager
  • Hamilton insisted upon a Council closed session so that Stacey Shade could tell his story about his experience in the court case, but Hamilton walked out without explanation before it began.

Perhaps a resolution with a lawsuit will bring the ongoing tension to a halt.