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Lilburn hears from residents upset with officer termination

LILBURN - Seven months after Sgt. Jorge Portalatin's dismissal from the Lilburn Police Department, church leaders, residents and members of area churches came before the City Council on Monday and requested he be reinstated and all back pay given to him.

After the release of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finding last month that supported Portalatin's allegations of racial discrimination in the Lilburn Police Department, his supporters came before the council to request the council reverse its decision to terminate Portalatin.

"The EEOC determined that (Portalatin) was subjected to racial discrimination," said Rev. Richard Haynes of Salem Baptist Church. "This is problematic because the Lilburn Council had already ruled in direct opposition to that finding. This is a reflection of the values and judgments of this city. We are now asking you to do the right thing and reinstate Sergeant Portalatin."

The EEOC ruling determined that after Portalatin filed a complaint against the Lilburn Police Department alleging racial discrimination, he was subjected to retaliation and was subsequently passed over for promotion and terminated.

"We met with the city earlier this year behind closed doors and hoped to not have to embarrass the city in this way," said Rev. John Stewart, Jr. of the Gwinnett County Chapter of the Nation Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We believe you have the power to do the right thing."

Portalatin was with the Lilburn Police Department for five years and was dismissed on March 9 for reasons which included conduct unbecoming an officer and violations of Lilburn police policy. Three separate incidents were investigated by the Gwinnett County Police Department and included allegations of excessive use of force and rude and discourteous behavior toward residents.

"We appreciate your comments tonight," Mayor Jack Bolton said. "But we have been advised that because there is potential litigation here, we cannot comment on this issue at this time."

In other business, the Lilburn City Council:

•Approved red-light traffic cameras for two more intersections along Ga. Highway 29, at Rockbridge Road and at Beaver Ruin Road.

•Approved an alcohol license for Spiced Right Smokehouse BBQ at 5364 Ga. 29 for the sale of beer.

•Approved an agreement with Gwinnett County to use inmate labor to remove graffiti from private property.