Trial underway for Marshville detective's wrongful termination lawsuit

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A former detective said he confronted his police chief about allegedly stealing items from donation bins and then selling them.

Jury members were selected Tuesday at the federal courthouse in uptown Charlotte for the trial involving a wrongful termination lawsuit by former Marshville police Detective Felix Blakney.

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Channel 9 obtained court documents that allege Chief Matt Tarlton "collected donated goods from donation bins ... and place(d) them for sale in his retail store."

Blakney said he confronted the chief in 2014 about what the lawsuit calls "suspected illegal conduct."

Tarlton said in a deposition that he collected clothing from bins that was not meant for his family's store. He said he worked for a company that collects used clothing.

In 2015, months after Blakney reportedly confronted Tarlton, Blakney claims he was formally reprimanded for a dress code violation. He was also punished for allegedly making a statement about another officer and for having an argument with an umpire at a baseball game two years before.

Blakney was then fired for "failure in personal conduct" and claims it stems from "unlawful discrimination on the basis of race” and "unlawful retaliation." Blakney was the only African-American member on the force.

Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster called Tarlton Tuesday. He declined to comment about the allegations because of the trial, which is now starting. Foster also reached out to the attorney for the town of Marshville and did not hear back.

In a response to the lawsuit, an attorney for the town of Marshville denied the former town manager and Tarlton "discriminated against (Blakney) under any statute, law or theory."

Blakney filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015. The lawsuit states the EEOC sent Blakney a notice of right to sue dated Jan. 11, 2018.

Channel 9 checked with the State Bureau of Investigation about whether state agents investigated the accusations against Tarlton. A spokesperson for the SBI said state agents were never asked to investigate.