Ex-Lakewood cop sues city, claims he was fired for being gay

SEATTLE -- A former Lakewood police officer is suing the city and several of its employees, claiming he was discriminated against for being gay and a union leader.

Brian Wurts, an eight year veteran of the Lakewood Police Department, was fired in December of 2012 following a string of investigations, according to a lawsuit filed in Pierce County Superior Court.

Wurts claims he was fired because he is gay and was the president of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild.

According to his lawsuit, the problems began when former Lakewood police officer Skeeter Manos was arrested and accused of embezzlement.

Manos, who was the union's treasurer, was convicted last year on federal charges of stealing $112,000 from a fund intended to benefit the families of four Lakewood officers shot to death in a coffee shop in November 2009 and $47,000 from the Lakewood Police independent Guild.

In 2012, Wurts was placed on administrative leave while he was investigated for any potential role in the Manos crimes, according to court documents. While on leave, Wurts says the department opened up four other investigations focusing on his sexual conduct and various other allegations.

Upon conclusion of the investigations, Wurts was fired from the department.

In his suit, Wurts claims he had no knowledge of the Manos crimes and was actually fired because of his sexual orientation and his role in the union.

As head of the union, Wurts says he brought numerous grievances and unfair labor practice complaints against the city, which he claims angered city and police department leaders.

"On numerous occasions, Mr. Wurts was subjected to angry shouting from Police Chief Brett Farrar and Assistant Chief Michael Zaro," the lawsuit reads.

He also claims he was passed over three times for promotions, despite his "exemplary performance reviews."

While he doesn't specifically claim he was passed over for being gay, he does say he was treated differently than his heterosexual colleague and was "subjected to inappropriate and harassing investigation into his personal life and unfounded allegations of improper sexual contact," according to his lawsuit.

Lakewood Police Department spokesman Chris Lawler said the department is not commenting on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is slated to go before a jury next May.