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Former Midway police chief files suit against city
midway sign
A sign welcomes motorists to Midway. - photo by File photo

The former Midway police chief is suing the city, alleging she was fired because she was white.

In a complaint filed in U.S. Southern District Court, Kelli Morningstar is seeking at least $300,000 in damages from the City of Midway. Morningstar, who was ousted as police chief in July 2023, alleges she was discriminated against and harassed by city officials because she is white.

The suit was filed last week. Morningstar filed an EEOC complaint in August 2023 charging the city with racial discrimination.

In her lawsuit, Morningstar said the city’s discriminatory practices included “creating or permitting a hostile work environment heavily charged with discrimination,” “maintaining wages, job assignments and other conditions of employment that unlawfully operate to deny equal opportunity to the plaintiff because of her race and/or color,” and “creating a hostile, racially charged work environment such that no reasonable person would be expected to endure.”

Morningstar and her attorney cited an incident last year when another vehicle drove by a traffic stop the chief had made. The other vehicle drove by at an estimated 55 mph, failing to comply with the state’s slow down or move over law, according to the lawsuit. The chief pulled that driver, who is Black, over and issued a ticket. A week later, though, city council members “demanded” the chief change that ticket to a warning in city court.

“This was motivated by race,” the suit contends.

The former chief also alleges that a former council member instructed her to run radar on a portion of Highway 84 that fell under the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction and not the Midway Police Department’s. Doing so would have been a violation of the law, the suit stated. But she was told the “citizens don’t know that,” according to the lawsuit.

Morningstar also referenced a June 2023 incident in which a white Midway officer used a taser on a Black suspect who had an “extensive criminal history with numerous criminal trespass charges and/ or convictions.” The suspect was arrested during the incident “because he was trespassing at a motel where he had been previously criminally trespassed for illegal drug activity,” the chief said in her lawsuit.

Morningstar said she was not aware of the incident until a couple of days later and said she was not aware the officer involved had not informed the mayor. The mayor admonished the chief for not telling him about the incident, and she replied she did not know he had not been told.

The Courier has reached out to the city’s attorney for response.

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