White Former ADA Sues Seth Williams for Racial Discrimination
MK Feeney was once an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia with a promising career. Hired in 1996 by then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham, Feeney successfully prosecuted numerous murderers including Kensington’s Christopher Kitcherman, who went to prison for cutting up his father and stashing the body parts in a freezer.
During her tenure, Feeney served in the Homicide, Major Trials and Juvenile units, but the veteran prosecutor lasted less than two years under the watch of District Attorney Seth Williams (pictured), who assumed the office in January 2010. Feeney, who is white, now says that she was the victim of racial discrimination at the hands of Williams, and she’s filed a discrimination lawsuit against him in Federal Court.
Back in June 2011, Feeney made headlines when she abruptly left her post just weeks after the similarly abrupt departure of First Assistant District Attorney Joseph McGettigan, who is also white. At the time, sources told the Daily News that Feeney was forced to resign after it was alleged that she had pulled up the juvenile record of a fellow prosecutor, who is black. Feeney says in court papers that she was fired and that while she had seen the report in question, she did not pull it up personally.
Since Feeney left the office, stories of racial tension in the office have become commonplace, with white staffers privately accusing Williams of giving black staffers preferential treatment; these are the allegations that turn up in Feeney’s suit, which names the District Attorney’s Office and Williams, both in his official capacity and individually.
Here are some of Feeney’s allegations, taken directly from her complaint filed in Federal Court:
“Defendants engaged in a policy, practice and custom to consider race in connection with employment decisions… and treat non-white employees more favorable than similarly situated white employees, including… disciplining white employees more harshly than non-white employees… promoting non-white employees into open positions over qualified white employees… removing qualified white employees and replacing them with non-white employees… waiving job requirements for non-white employees but not for similarly situated white employees.”
“Mr. Williams actively ignored the Hiring Committee’s scoring and ranking of candidates and hand-picked the individuals he wanted to receive job offers. the individuals Defendant Williams hand-picked were predominantly non-white. Mr. Williams made comments to the Hiring Committee that he wanted them to hire people who ‘look like Philadelphians’ meaning that Mr. Williams wanted them to hire individuals based on the racial demographics of the city.”
“Mr. Williams offered a black ADA a substantial raise in order to prevent her from leaving for another job, and told her that he needed people who look like her in front of his juries.”
“Defendants commissioned a large mural for the lobby of the DA’s office, in which all the individuals depicted are non-white.”
Feeney alleges that Williams “hand-picked and hired almost exclusively non-white individuals for his support staff and has provided some of these individuals with salaries that exceed the ADAs’ salaries.” The suit goes on to list some of those positions and the races/ethnicities and salaries of the people filling them.
Regarding her departure from the D.A.’s office, Feeney maintains in the suit that she did nothing wrong. She adds that a black member of the staff who was aware of the juvenile record of their mutual colleague and who went to the press about it was not fired. Williams and the two black colleagues, she states in the suit, “are all members of the same fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, a fraternity for African American males.”
Although court records indicate that Williams was served with the suit last Friday, spokesperson Tasha Jamerson declined to comment, saying, “This office was just notified about this lawsuit and we are currently reviewing it.”
[PHOTO: AP/Matt Rourke]