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  • May 29, 2015

Attorneys representing Pearson, KJAS, and the City of Jasper issue press releases - KJAS.COM: Local News

Attorneys representing Pearson, KJAS, and the City of Jasper issue press releases

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Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 6:51 pm | Updated: 11:49 am, Fri Feb 28, 2014.

On Thursday, February 27th, 2014, the Bernsen Law Firm in Beaumont, who represent former Jasper Police Chief Rodney Pearson, issued a press release, which can be seen - in PDF form - on the left side of this screen.

Attorneys Mike Getz and David Vann deCordova, Jr., who represent KJAS, issued the following press release on Thursday evening:

This press release is on behalf of Mike Lout, owner and operator of KJAS Radio. It is not on behalf of the City of Jasper, Texas, or on behalf of Mr. Lout in his capacity as Mayor of Jasper. Mike Lout, in his individual capacity, along with KJAS were represented in this case by attorneys Mike Getz and David Vann deCordova, Jr.

Lout and KJAS categorically deny that former Jasper Police Chief Rodney Pearson was terminated on the basis of his race. The evidence that was developed in this case did not show anything other than a crafty attempt to manipulate facts in order to extort money from the citizens of Jasper.

Lout’s attorney’s received and reviewed the Press Release submitted by Cade Bernsen, one of Rodney Pearson’s attorneys. Cade Bernsen and his law firm are known for public grandstanding, and the press release, unfortunately, comes as no surprise.

Moreover, and shamefully, Bernsen’s recitation of the relevant facts are grossly biased, one-sided and purposefully incomplete.

For example, Bernsen conveniently neglected to mention that his client, when hired as police chief by the majority-Black council, had absolutely no municipal law enforcement or related supervisory experience, ultimately causing havoc and low department morale among other problems. It would appear that Pearson’s hiring was primarily motivated by the color of his skin.

Bernsen also curiously neglected to mention that the point-scoring system about which he complains was merely used as a screening tool to narrow down the applicant pool for interviews.

Bernsen of course failed to mention that the former Jasper City Council did not use the point-system to include or to exclude Mr. Pearson or any other applicant. Further, Bernsen ignored the highly inconvenient truth that the screening tool actually resulted in the ranking of another Black applicant much higher than Mr. Pearson. Unlike Mr. Pearson, this Black applicant not only had advanced education, i.e., a doctorate, but actual in-the-field experience as a police chief. Mr. Pearson did not even have a four-year college degree, and had no experience whatsoever running a law enforcement agency or in supervising employees.

In a shameful attempt to tarnish and harm Mike Lout, Bernsen failed to mention that Lout, as Mayor, recommended the more highly qualified Black applicant over Mr. Pearson. Bernsen also ignores as an inconvenient truth that despite the screening tool, which placed Mr. Pearson nearly at the bottom of the list of applicants, that the majority-Black city council still elected to hire him to be the Chief of Police.

The investigation into Mr. Pearson’s background that Bernsen complains of contained factual information that included Mr. Pearson’s criminal history. Despite having access to the report, the majority–Black city council still decided to hire Pearson.

Once hired, Pearson began a campaign to systematically demote white Jasper police officers resulting in several lawsuits that were filed against the City of Jasper that cost the city tens of thousands of dollars.

Outraged citizens initiated a recall campaign to oust the elected officials who had irresponsibly hired Mr. Pearson into the position of police chief. Bernsen attempted to stop the recall campaign in Federal court, alleging many signatures were forged. He failed and the recall election was allowed to proceed and three of the councilmembers who had voted to hire Mr. Pearson were turned out of office.

Because Mr. Bernsen does not mention it, the public may also be unaware that Mr. Lout was subjected to a recall election which was unsuccessful. The recall effort against Mike Lout was organized at Mr. Walter Diggle’s church, which was recently the subject of a raid by the FBI.

Finally, it is a blatant lie that the council recall effort was “run out of the KJAS radio station” as Bernsen claims. Advertising was sold on the radio station promoting the recall election of the councilmembers that voted to hire Mr. Pearson and KJAS would have run advertisements related to the all-Black effort to recall Mike Lout had they been requested to do so.

Regarding the settlement, the parties all agreed it would not be used as any form of admission of liability or wrongdoing. Nevertheless, it is clear Bernsen and his client have an agenda to pursue, apparently including the continued punishment of Jasper, and simply will not let the facts get in the way. This harms, rather than advances the cause of true justice and the elimination of racism from the sphere of government decision-making. One day hopefully our government will hire solely on the basis of character and qualifications, ignoring the pigment of the applicant’s skin as envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King. We have far to go in this regard.

On Friday morning, attorney Frank D. Calvert, of Calvert, Eaves, Clark, and Stelley L.L.P. in Beaumont, which represents the City of Jasper, issued the following press release:

To avoid the uncertainties and expense of litigation, the City of Jasper elected to settle the claims of Rodney Pearson, and in reality his race had nothing to do with his termination nor treatment by the City of Jasper. However, rather than continue the protracted litigation arising from his lawsuit, it was deemed in the best interests of the City and its Citizens to resolve the case so the Police Department and the City can move on with serving and protecting the citizens of Jasper without continued false allegations of racism and the distractions caused by such litigation. Although formerly a D.P.S. trooper, Mr. Pearson lacked municipal police experience, and objectively ranked 15th out of 22 applicants for the police chief position. Why? In addition to having been out of law enforcement for almost 5 years, he lacked command level experience, administrative experience, command level leadership preparation, support services experience, a bachelor or graduate degree, and nationally recognized advanced technical training. You do not hear from the Pearson camp Mayor Lout actually advocated for Chief a different black candidate with qualifications greater than those of Pearson. Also, the same job posting used in former Chief Hunter’s selection process was used for Pearson. Pearson had a background check as required due to his appointment as interim chief, not because he was black. The “matrix” or “scoring system” complained of by Pearson was recommended by the Texas Police Chiefs Association – it was not some ill-conceived device developed by the City -- and was, in fact, geared to municipal police experience. Why? Because a municipal police chief was the job to be filled. Pearson’s performance as Chief and the morale of the department can arguably be tied to his very lack of experience in the municipal arena. Performance perceptions and poor morale in the department were what prompted a change – not race. However, due to unsupported statements and testimony of certain witnesses, combined with the fact the City would only have to pay from City funds the sum of $350,000.00 toward the settlement, and the uncertainty of litigation where truth and reason can be obscured by a smokescreen of unrelated facts and allegations of a conspiracy which never existed, the prudent thing was to settle the claim, stop the expense, and move on. Not admitting racism. Not for justice. Simply to end a constant barrage of meritless claims of racism, and move forward.