NORTON, Ohio - A former Norton police officer says he was fired over his Muslim faith.
Nicholas Matheny has filed a federal lawsuit against several city officials in Norton.
Subdodh Chandra represents Matheny.
"It is unfortunate in 2012 that some people, and, worst of all, some public officials that simply don't embrace what it means to be an American," said Chandra from his downtown Cleveland law office.
Chandra said other officers found out about Matheny's faith when he passed out his wedding invitation to two co-workers.
"It said on the top of wedding invite 'May Allah bless this marriage', as is customary. Unfortunately, that set in motion a terrible chain of events," Chandra said.
Matheny claims he was subjected to anti-Muslim statements and when he complained, he was retaliated against.
Chandra said the Norton Police Department filled Matheny's personnel file with false and backdated write-ups.
He was fired in November 2010.
"After officer Matheny was fired, Chief Hete was telling people, 'Officer Matheny would file his towel head terrorist lawsuit any day now,'" said Chandra.
Matheny has filed a federal civil-rights complaint charging federal and state discrimination, retaliation, conspiracy and hostile work environment.
Norton law director Pete Kostoff told ONN's Cristin Severance, " I haven't received a copy of the complaint. Until we've received it our position will be no comment."
The city officials named in the lawsuit have 30 to 60 days to answer the complaint.
Here is the full press release given to the media by Subodh Chandra.
"Former Norton Police Officer sues City, Police Chief, Sergeant, and City Administration for discrimination and retaliation over wrongful termination
"Police officer terminated after coworkers learn of his adoption of the Muslim faith
"NORTON, OHIO - Nicholas A. Matheny today filed a federal civil--‐ rights complaint charging federal and state discrimination, retaliation, conspiracy, and hostile--‐ work--‐ environment claims against the City of Norton, Police Chief Thaddeus Hete, Police Sergeant John Dalessandro, and City Administrator Richard Ryland.
"Officer Mathey's suit, captioned Matheny v. City of Norton, et al., seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. It was filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.
"Federal and state anti--‐ discrimination laws forbid making employment decisions based on religion, or in retaliation for an employee's opposition to discrimination or harassment. The complaint's allegations are summarized below.
"Officer Matheny started with the Norton Police Department in 2004. Other than a brief relocation to Nevada in 2008, he served as a patrol officer until November 2010, when he was terminated. When Matheny relocated, City Administrator Richard Ryland circulated a memo describing Matheny as an "excellent patrolman for the City." He enjoyed excellent performance reviews and was well liked among his colleagues.
"Officer Matheny adopted the Muslim faith in early 2010. He initially kept his new faith private except among his closest friends, in part because of anti--‐ Islamic sentiment in the police department, including emails he had received from his direct supervisor, Sergeant Harvey Bechtel. Matheny's faith remained a private matter until late September 2010 when he handed out his wedding invitations to two colleagues. The wedding invitations read, as is customary, "May Allah Bless This Marriage" at the top. When Officer Jim Weiss read that language, he launched into a barrage of anti--‐ Muslim statements, making disparaging comments about Matheny's fiancée and her family, who are also Muslims. Matheny passionately objected to Weiss's bigoted statements.
"After the incident with Officer Weiss spread throughout the department, Matheny's status as a Muslim became common knowledge among his coworkers. From that point, he was treated like a pariah.
"Before his new faith became common knowledge, Officer Matheny had an exemplary performance record. Shortly before Matheny handed out his wedding invitations, Chief Hete had nominated Officer Matheny to receive an award at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) event, because of Matheny's high number of drunk--‐ driving arrests. Chief Hete withdrew the nomination after Matheny's conversion became public.
"Before Officer Matheny became a Muslim, he had no disciplinary write--‐ ups in his personnel file. But once his conversion became common knowledge, his performance was suddenly seen as lacking. False and backdated write--‐ ups were placed in Matheny's personnel file, which were meant to create the impression that Matheny was terminated for cause, when in fact he was terminated because of his religious conversion.
"Just as Officer Matheny was ending his final shift before his wedding, Chief Hete told Matheny that he would be fired. Matheny and his wife spent their honeymoon distressed over the job threat. When Matheny returned to work,