Keith Wildhaber has been a St. Louis County police officer for twenty-two years; he is also an openly gay man who was once picked to become the department’s liaison to the LGBT community.
Now, however, Sgt. Wildhaber is the department for discrimination.
Wildhaber ranked third among 26 people who took a promotions test in February 2014; he also ranked third in a second round of tests the following year. But he was never promoted, even though his written performance reviews show that he “exceeds standards” or is “superior” in all rated categories.
According to the lawsuit, Wildhaber believes he was denied promotions because his “behavior, mannerisms, and/or appearance do not fit the stereotypical norms of what a ‘male’ should be.” And he says he learned that during a routine business check at Bartolino’s restaurant, when he spoke with the owner, John Saracino—a member of the department’s civilian police board at the time—and says Saracino told him:
“The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt (i.e. get a promotion), you should tone down your gayness.”
For his part, Saracino says he never said those things to Sgt. Wildhaber.
In April, 2016, one year after his excellent scores on that promotions test, Keith Wildhaber filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Missouri Commission on Human Rights, and shortly thereafter, the department reassigned him from afternoon shifts at the Affton precinct to midnights in the Jennings precinct, some 30 miles from Wildhaber’s home.
In 2014, St. Louis, Police Chief Sam Dotson appointed Capt. Angela Coonce as the department’s LGBT liaison. At that same time St, Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch asked Keith Wildhaber to serve in that same role for the county, but when Jon Belmar replaced Fitch as chief in January 2014, it didn’t happen. Keith Wildhaber then took the test to become a lieutenant, and yet he remains a sergeant.
I think Belmar has some explaining to do ...