ST. LOUIS — A white St. Louis sheriff’s deputy has sued the department and the sheriff alleging that he was passed over for a promotion to sergeant twice for less qualified black candidates.

John Castellano III, who is white, alleges in the lawsuit filed this week that Sheriff Vernon Betts, who is black, deviated from his own promotional policy to promote two black deputies to the rank of sergeant over Castellano.

Betts did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Castellano has been with the department since 1998, and applied for a promotion in September or October 2016, according to the lawsuit.

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Betts took office in January.

“At the first roll call after his election, Betts announced that all racists that are still here need to leave and don’t (expletive) with me,” according to the lawsuit.

Promotions to the rank of sergeant and above are filled from eligibility lists based on written or oral tests, performance evaluations and the evaluation of training and experience of the candidates or any combination thereof. Those lists then stay in effect for two years, according to the lawsuit.

To become a sergeant, a deputy must have five years of experience.

In April, Betts promoted a black deputy to the rank of sergeant, though the deputy did not have five years of experience, according to the lawsuit.

In July, Betts promoted another deputy to sergeant without using the competitive testing process, the lawsuit alleges.

Betts also made his brother a supervisor.

Catellano’s attorney, Lynette Petruska, has made headlines recently for two settlements she has reached on behalf of white St. Louis police officers who have alleged they, too, were passed over for promotions because of their race. The same firm represents a black officer who said she was denied a promotion because of her gender. That case is pending.


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