A former security liaison and club manager at Kansas City’s downtown entertainment district has filed a lawsuit alleging that Cordish Companies and others deliberately created disturbances to eject black patrons from the district.
Cordish, the Baltimore-based developer of the Power & Light District, vigorously denies the allegations.
The lawsuit was filed recently in Jackson County Circuit Court by Glen Cusimano, who was hired as a security guard for Angels Rock Bar in 2009 and later was promoted to a security liaison for the entire entertainment district as well as general manager for the Mosaic Lounge and Hotel Nightclub.
In addition to Cordish, the lawsuit names as defendants Lounge KC LLC and Entertainment Concepts Investors LLC, two Cordish-tied enterprises, and First Response Inc., a security company.
Cusimano says he saw numerous instances of racially discriminatory practices in which African-Americans were turned away from clubs more frequently or forced to wait longer in lines. He says that in the summer of 2012, he was ordered to employ a “rabbit,” a Caucasian male to start arguments with African-Americans to get them kicked out of Power & Light. That practice, he says, was used 20 to 30 times in the summer of 2013.
Cusimano, an African-American, says he was fired for no valid reason in September 2013 after Mosaic was changed from a hip-hop music venue that was popular with African-Americans.
“We believe Cordish set up their own ‘rabbit’ incident against Glen to trump up a reason to fire him,” said Linda S. Dickens, an attorney for Cusimano in Overland Park. “Since then, we believe his name was slandered and defamed.”
Cordish officials said Cusimano’s firing was justified and they have evidence that he assaulted a handcuffed person during the alleged “rabbit” incident. Cusimano was arrested and charged with assault by Kansas City police in connection with that incident.
In a statement, Cordish attorney Bob Fowler said the lawsuit accusations “are complete fabrications and 100 percent false.”
Fowler said, “Mosaic Nightclub had no choice but to terminate Mr. Cusimano’s employment. Mosaic will vigorously defend Mr. Cusimano’s outrageous allegations and intends to file its own counterclaims against Mr. Cusimano.”
Fowler also said Cusimano had a felony fraud conviction that he failed to disclose to Mosaic. Federal records show Cusimano pleaded guilty to wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Kansas City in June 2005 and served nine months in prison.
Dickens said Cusimano’s dispute with the Cordish properties was heightened when Cusimano refused to sign a confidentiality agreement to not divulge civil rights violations he had observed or complied with while employed.
The lawsuits seeks $10 million in actual and punitive damages.
The Power & Light District was the subject of numerous complaints about bias in its dress code enforcement in 2008 and 2009.
The Kansas City Human Relations Department filed a discrimination complaint in 2009 concerning the dress code. Cordish denied the allegation, but the dress code was modified somewhat and the complaint was settled in 2010. Human Relations Director Phillip Yelder said Thursday his department has not had any discrimination complaints about the entertainment district in several years.