WASHINGTON -- Vester Lee Flanagan, the man suspected of killing two Virginia television reporters Wednesday morning, attempted to subpoena personnel records on both of those victims, as well as other staff members, as part of a lawsuit against the TV station.
Flanagan’s lawsuit, filed in the Roanoke City General District Court in March 2014, requested $25,000 from WDBJ, the station, which had terminated his employment the previous year. The suit cited wrongful termination, unpaid overtime wages, racial discrimination and sexual harassment for identifying as gay. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence, although it’s unclear whether a settlement was reached.
The 168 pages of court filings, obtained by The Huffington Post, show that Flanagan had connections to Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, prior to allegedly shooting them dead on Wednesday. As part of his effort to extract payment from WDBJ, Flanagan requested personnel records for dozens of employees, including Ward, Parker, and Chris Hurst, who has identified himself as Parker's boyfriend.
Ward was also subpoenaed to appear as a witness in court, but the case was settled before the July 14, 2014, court date.
He also asked for information on Chris Hurst, who has identified himself as Parker’s boyfriend.
According to an internal memo included in the court documents, after Flanagan was presented with a severance letter in February 2013, he said, "You better call police because I'm going to make a big stink." A newsroom employee called 911, and police officers arrived to physically escort Flanagan from the building.
Memos indicate that Ward videotaped Flanagan as he was escorted out. Flanagan told Ward to “lose your big gut,” and flipped off the camera.
WDBJ objected to Flanagan’s request for employee documents, claiming the personnel records were proprietary information and irrelevant to his claims.
The court filings also include Flanagan’s application for employment at WDBJ and his resume, in which he reported graduating from San Francisco State University with a 3.7 grade point average and his affiliation with the National Association of Black Journalists.
Flanagan was offered a position with WDBJ on March 6, 2012, as a multimedia journalist/general assignment reporter with an annual salary of $36,000. However, he quickly racked up a misconduct record during his year of employment.
In a performance review in August 2012, Flanagan was given a “1,” the lowest rating, for being “respectful to coworkers at all times,” but a “4” for work diligence and attendance. He was written up in November 2012 for wearing a Barack Obama sticker.
“You often state the obvious: ‘people are saddened and concerned.’ Of course they are,” Dennison said in a memo, pointing out that Flanagan had opted to report the story from the station’s studio rather than live from the church. “This story … had the subject material to be interesting and memorable. Instead it was predictable and pedestrian.”
In communications with the Roanoke City General District Court judge in 2014, Flanagan alleged that there were racial tensions in the office. He claimed that a colleague said, “What am I supposed to do, make a list of things I can’t say to black people?” and that a watermelon “was placed in a strategic location where it would be visible to newsroom employees.” Flanagan also requested that his jury be made up of “African-American women.”
But in internal emails included in the filings, staff portrayed Flanagan as the one who was creating a hostile environment. “On three separate occasions in the past month and a half, you have behaved in a manner that has resulted in one or more of your co-workers feeling threatened or uncomfortable,” a staff member wrote in May 2012.
According to an internal memo, after Flanagan was presented a severance letter, he allegedly said, "You better call police because I'm going to make a big stink."
The lawsuit appears to be part of a wider pattern of Flanagan suing former employers. In 2000, he filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against news station WTWC-TV, where he worked from 1999 to 2000, according to his resume. Flanagan alleged racial discrimination in that case as well. WTWC-TV denied most of his allegations at the time, but acknowledged that an employee “may have” told a black tape operator to "stop talking ebonics."
In the Roanoke case, Flanagan told the judge at one point, “Your Honor, I am not the monster here. I get along with my current co-workers and I was just recognized by a senior manager at corporate. That sure doesn’t sound like the monster I was painted to be.”
Read the court filings here: