Former Pitt County attorney suing county for racial discrimination

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – A former Pitt County attorney is suing the county for racial discrimination.

Attorneys for former County Attorney Bryan Wardell say he was fired in a closed-door meeting of the Pitt County Board of Commissioners shortly after making headlines as the first African American County Attorney in the history of Pitt County.

The lawsuit says Wardell served as county attorney for about 90 days before being fired.

The lawsuit lists Pitt County, the Pitt County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Christopher Nunnally, and County Manager Janis Gallagher as the defendants being sued.

Wardell alleges Gallagher facilitated his firing partially based on race, Nunnally is accused of interfering with Wardell’s employment contract with Pitt County, and he is claiming the board of commissioners wrongfully discharged him in violation of public policy.

According to officials, this is not the first time Gallagher has been accused of racial discrimination. They say when serving as County Attorney in 2021, she was the subject of a human resources complaint alleging racial bias filed by her subordinate Assistant County Attorney Lisa Overton.

Wardell’s attorneys say at the time of his hiring, about 90% of all Pitt County’s department heads or deputy heads were white, despite more than a third of the county’s residents being black.

Warndell is seeking back pay, compensatory damages based on emotional distress, humiliation, and mental anguish, and his attorneys’ fees and the cost of litigation.

The county said this morning that it has yet to be served with a lawsuit.

“At no time has the county, its management, or its commissioners participated in or condoned any form of discrimination,” said Gallagher in a statement to WITN. “Pitt County does not tolerate any form of discrimination. Pitt County and its management deny all allegations of wrongdoing. However, because these matters are related to private personnel matters and ongoing litigation, the county is not able to comment further at this time.”

Read the full lawsuit document below:

Wardell Lawsuit by WITN on Scribd