ROLESVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — The former police chief of Rolesville, Orlando Soto, is suing town officials over allegations of “a hostile work environment.”

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on Aug. 8 against Rolesville Board of Commissioners, Town Manager Kelly Arnold, Town Finance Director Amy Stevens and Mayor Ronnie Currin.

Soto sued on the grounds of “depriving the fruits of one’s labor”, deprivation of rights, inflicting emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit states Soto joined the Rolesville Police Department in May 2015 and served as the Interim Chief of Police from March 2017 to June 2017. He was then appointed as chief of the Rolesville Police Department and resigned in October 2020.

Soto was considered to be disabled since he was blind in one eye and is a member of a “historically marginalized ethnic group”, the lawsuit states.

Shortly after Arnold was hired as the Town Manager in June 2018, and with the assistance of Stevens acting under the direction of Arnold, Soto alleges he experienced “a hostile work environment” and was deprived of his constitutional rights.

The lawsuit states around December 2018, Soto was denied a 5% pay increase that was given to other employees. Soto filed a grievance, which was denied.


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He then appealed the grievance denial, “having to spend significant time, energy and distress” on the appeal. Soto’s appeal resulted in a reversal of the grievance denial. He was then awarded back pay with the pay increase in January 2019.

The lawsuit alleges several incidents happened between February 2019 through August 31, 2020, in which the town failed to prevent biased practices. The Town and Town Council failed to follow existing policies and failed to prevent violations and deprivation of rights, the lawsuit states.

In one incident, Soto alleges that during a staff meeting with Arnold to prepare for a media encounter, Arnold made an offensive comment to Soto noting that “if you (Soto) are going to dance with the big dogs, you need to learn to dance the salsa.” The lawsuit alleges while saying this, Arnold mimicked the salsa dance in a mocking manner.

Soto alleges that Arnold began to visit the police department more frequently without notice and at unscheduled times, expecting Soto to meet immediately with him, regardless of the significance for the reason of visiting.

The lawsuit states Soto felt harassed and began to feel pressured and obligated to meet with Arnold despite his demanding workload.

The lawsuit also alleges that due to the incidents, Soto asked to meet with Arnold regarding the “overt scrutiny, unsubstantiated and unwarranted hostile actions.”

Before the meeting, Arnold made a joke about COVID-19 and the punch line was giving Soto the middle finger. He brought the incident to Mayor Currin who took no action against Arnold, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Arnold was trying to demean and tear down Soto by commenting about his dress attire, style of writing, and how Soto conducted daily business.

He allegedly told Soto that he was too articulate and professional for who he should be as a person.

Stevens, under Arnold’s supervision, initiated a “fishing-expedition campaign” to scrutinize every police department expense, personnel action and funding that was approved by Soto, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Stevens also took overt actions to further marginalize, minimize and disparage Soto.

In violation of statutory law, policies and protocols, a police department employee’s wages were authorized by Stevens to be “garnished without the required verification and communication between the employee and the finance department.”

The lawsuit also alleges Stevens tried to launch her own investigation into the police department’s use of mobile internet hotspots without telling Chief Soto. The devices were already preapproved and had unlimited data allotments.

Stevens also rejected and questioned Soto’s expenses on preapproved items, specifically buying and outfitting police vehicles.

In Oct. 2020, Mayor Currin and the Town Council made the decision to “let Soto go” during a closed-door executive session.

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Due to Soto’s working environment, the lawsuit states he received prescribed medications and medical attention for his emotional and physical health.

The lawsuit states Soto learned about the decision on Oct. 28, 2020, and “became weak with fear and anxiety” and Soto was compelled to resign.

The entire lawsuit is listed below