WASHINGTON (BP)–The Christian Coalition has settled a multimillion-dollar racial-discrimination lawsuit by black employees by paying about $325,000 in return for the workers’ promise of permanent silence on the case, The Washington Times reported.
Neither side would confirm details of the settlement, reached quietly last week, but sources involved in the negotiations said several lawsuits would be dropped by 12 current and former employees in exchange for the lump-sum payment to be distributed by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“The matter has been resolved amicably,” George Doumar, a Washington attorney who represented the employees, told The Washington Times. Doumar said the confidentiality agreement precluded him from making any further comment.
Roberta Combs, the Coalition’s president, did not respond to numerous inquiries and telephone messages Jan. 3.
Robert F. Muse, one of her attorneys, said he would not comment on the settlement. He also refused to comment on an ongoing federal inquiry of possible fraud involving Coalition donations that became an issue in protracted legal wrangling over the lawsuits.
Combs took over the group’s presidency in December upon the resignation of founder the Rev. Pat Robertson.
The agreement came as Combs and former employees exchanged accusations of financial irregularities and wire fraud involving a Washington gala last January to celebrate President Bush’s inauguration.
In communications between attorneys, the Coalition accused one black plaintiff, who processed the organization’s credit card and cash contributions, of embezzlement. No criminal charges were filed, but the Coalition fired the worker.
That worker was not included in the monetary settlement.
Separately, several other former Coalition employees have gone to the FBI with accusations that the group defrauded hundreds of donors who participated in the inaugural gala at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Candace Wheeler, Combs’ former administrative assistant, and Trent Barton, a former Coalition employee who joined the discrimination lawsuit, confirmed that an FBI special agent from Northern Virginia is inquiring about financial irregularities involving at least 400 of 2,200 donors to the Coalition’s inauguration event.
“I have been contacted by the FBI, and I am cooperating with the investigation and will continue to do so,” Barton, who is white, said Jan. 3.
The initial lawsuit accused Combs and Coalition managers of forcing black employees to enter the organization’s Capitol Hill headquarters by the back door, while whites were permitted to use the front door.
The lawsuits also accused Combs of barring black workers from an employee lunchroom used by whites and of excluding blacks from weekly prayer meetings and periodic social events attended by white employees.