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Former Ithaca police chief sues city over racial discrimination allegations

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  • Staff Report 

Former Acting Chief of the Ithaca Police Department, John Joly, has filed a lawsuit against the City of Ithaca and several officials, alleging racial discrimination and other grievances following his contentious appointment process in late 2022. Joly claims that the city’s former Director of Human Resources, Schelley Michell-Nunn, and former and current city officials discriminated against him due to his race, leading to his replacement despite initially being chosen for the permanent police chief position.


The lawsuit, seeking at least $750,000 in damages, revolves around the events of December 2022 when former Mayor Laura Lewis appointed Joly as the permanent police chief, a decision later retracted amid opposition from Common Council members. Joly accuses the council members and Michell-Nunn of favoritism based on race and defaming his character, leading to his indefinite leave from the department.

This legal battle comes as Joly continues to be compensated during his leave, while the city has since appointed another permanent chief. The controversy has sparked discussions around the selection process and the alleged influence of racial bias, with Joly’s attorney, A.J. Bosman, highlighting similar past litigation against the city. City officials have refrained from commenting on the ongoing lawsuit, adhering to policies on litigation and personnel matters.