Government & Politics

Missouri employee claims bias in lost promotion, names Jason Kander as defendant

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has been sued by a state employee who contends discrimination. Kander, a Democrat, is running for the U.S. Senate.
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has been sued by a state employee who contends discrimination. Kander, a Democrat, is running for the U.S. Senate. AP file photo

A Bulgarian immigrant who began working in the Missouri secretary of state’s office in 2008 claims the office unfairly passed him over for promotion in favor of an African-American woman, contending in a lawsuit that pressure to bring racial diversity cost him advancement.

The suit, which was filed last year, names Secretary of State Jason Kander and his commissioner of securities, Andrew Hartnett, as defendants. Kander is a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Roy Blunt.

The plaintiff, Roumen Manolov, is a lawyer representing himself in the case. He was working in the secretary of state’s financial securities division when the office posted an opening for chief registration counsel in early 2014.

Manolov’s lawsuit said he applied for the position but the job was never filled. Instead, he contends his bosses changed the job description and filled it with another applicant. Meantime, the suit claims, he was embarrassed by how he received a nominal promotion while the more coveted new position went to the African-American woman.

No trial has been scheduled.

Manolov still works for the secretary of state. Some of his claims date to when Robin Carnahan led the office, but Blunt’s campaign has promoted the case in the Senate race. Kander took over in 2013.

In an emailed statement, Kander said: “I am confident the Commissioner of Securities and the Secretary of State’s office will prevail because this case has no merit.”

The lawsuit drags on as Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon faces increasing scrutiny over a spate of discrimination cases filed against his administration in recent years. Most recently, the governor has been criticized for appointing longtime aide Brian May to serve as a circuit judge in St. Louis County despite a jury ordering May last year to pay damages to a former employee who alleged disability discrimination.

Over the last two years, juries have ordered the state to pay nearly $16 million in damages related to eight discrimination lawsuits against various agencies in the Nixon administration. There are jury trials in 15 additional discrimination lawsuits scheduled to begin over the next year, although Nixon leaves office in January because of term limits.

According to an open records request by The Star, the Manolov allegations appear to be the only discrimination lawsuit filed against the secretary of state’s office since Kander took over. There’s no record of any discrimination lawsuits filed against the other statewide offices in Missouri — attorney general, auditor, lieutenant governor or treasurer.

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