Former ferry pilot sues county in federal court

Published 10:33 am Tuesday, December 9, 2014

he Kings Point Ferry II prepares to transport vehicles Tuesday across the Yazoo River Diversion Canal. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

he Kings Point Ferry II prepares to transport vehicles Tuesday across the Yazoo River Diversion Canal. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

A former pilot on the Kings Point Ferry and staple at the helm of other recreational vessels has sued Warren County for age discrimination, a year after he was let go from a two-man staff a year ago this week.

David Schaeffer claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson last month he was “inexplicably terminated” on Dec. 16, 2013 and replaced by “a much younger male.” Court papers say Schaeffer, 72, complained to Warren County Road Manager Buddy Poole two months earlier about being denied overtime pay, which “made Mr. Poole very angry” with him.

His lawsuit asking for back wages follows up on a complaint it says Schaeffer filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June. Jackson-based Watson & Norris represent Schaeffer. Court filings don’t show representation for Warren County, which appointed a new attorney, Blake Teller, just 2½ weeks ago.

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A response from Schaeffer to an order signed by Magistrate Michael Parker was due Dec. 19 to consider whether the case should be moved to the northern division of the federal court’s southern district in the state. It was filed in the district’s western division.

Staffing and pay has been the most contentious issue for the county in managing the vessel in recent years. Two staff pilots are paid $16 an hour, while contract backups are paid $25 an hour. Both contractors work regular jobs with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mat Sinking Unit.

Schaeffer was taken off the county’s payroll by a 4-1 vote after a closed session of the Board of Supervisors on the date mentioned in the suit, according to a Dec. 17, 2013 article in The Vicksburg Post. The move came after Poole recommended the board do so and told supervisors Schaeffer had quit without notice, according to the published report.

In the 1990s, Schaeffer ran a tour boat with his wife, Peggy, on the Mississippi River and Yazoo Diversion Canal. The business, Mississippi River Adventures, operated until 2001. He was hired by the county to work on the ferry staff on Sept. 6, 2006, according to the suit.

Kings Point Island was cut off from mainland Warren County when the Mississippi River changed course near Vicksburg in the late 19th century. A ferry has been the only vehicle to cross the canal and reach the island, made up mostly of luxury hunting camps and timber farming. The current boat was purchased for about $600,000 in 2005. A new motor financed with federal highway money was to be installed in 2015.