Barbara Childress, Tarrant County’s first female police chief, has filed an age discrimination complaint against Richland Hills after she was fired in March.
The complaint, alleging discrimination and retaliation, was filed April 19 with the Texas Workforce Commission. A lawsuit will likely be filed after a required 180-day waiting period, said Jason Smith, an attorney representing Childress.
Smith said Richland Hills terminated Childress, 69, on grounds of insubordination and “refusal to obey a lawful order.” Childress had worked for the city for 48 years.
“The reason the city gave for terminating her was really bogus,” Smith said. “It appears that age is a big factor.”
In her complaint, Childress said city manager Eric Strong told her that he wanted her to resign or retire. She said she complained and thought it was age discrimination. She was then terminated, according to the complaint.
Strong wouldn’t say if Childress was fired or if she resigned, stating that she left about a month ago.
“I am not getting in to the reasons why an employee has left our city,” Strong said.
Kim Sylvester is serving as interim police chief, Strong said.
Richland Hills is conducting an internal search to replace Childress.
In a statement emailed to the Star-Telegram, Childress said: “I proudly served as police chief for the city of Richland Hills with distinction for over 33 years.
While I am 69 years old I still have a lot of experience and energy to give service to this great community. Sadly, Richland Hills has made up an excuse to disregard my service because they were uncomfortable with me getting older and wanted to bring in new blood.”
Childress started as a police dispatcher in 1970 and worked her way up through the ranks. She landed the job as Tarrant County’s first female police chief in 1983.
According to the city’s website, Childress brought many innovative changes to Richland Hills, including a high intensity sex offender monitoring program, a new resident outreach program, a citizen police academy and a student intern program.