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Idaho police chief candidate claims age discrimination after being passed over for top role

One council member said he didn’t want Jason Kuzik, then 52, because he was “getting close to retirement”

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By Rachel Spacek
The Idaho Statesman

CALDWELL, Idaho — An unsuccessful candidate for Caldwell police chief has filed a claim saying the city discriminated against him because of his age when the City Council selected a younger man.

When Jason Kuzik, 53, then a captain in the police department of a Las Vegas suburb, went through the interview process in 2022 for the chief’s job in Caldwell, he was under the impression that he was a top candidate, the discrimination claim said. Kuzik was Mayor Jarom Wagoner’s first choice.

But when his nomination went before the City Council, one member said he didn’t want Kuzik because “Mr. Kuzik is getting close to retirement.”

The council chose Rex Ingram, who was 37 at the time. Kuzik was then 52.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits discrimination against individuals over 40 because of their age. Kuzik said the city discriminated against him and turned aside his insistence that he no intention of retiring anytime soon.

Kuzik has 25 years in law enforcement and oversaw more than 70 employees in the Henderson, Nevada, department, the claim said.

Ingram had 17 years of experience with the Los Angeles Police Department when he was appointed. He also speaks fluent Spanish.

When the council held a hearing on Kuzik’s appointment, Councilor Chuck Stadick said he was concerned about the well-being of the department, which at the time was under an FBI investigation, and was concerned that Kuzik would retire in four or five years.

“Mr. Kuzik is getting close to retirement, and if he did choose to retire ... we would again be looking for a police chief,” Stadick said.

Caldwell spokesperson Char Jackson said the city “can’t comment on pending litigation.”

After he was rejected, Kuzik was hired as Lewiston’s police chief. But his tort claim said that because of his rejection by Caldwell, “harm was done to his reputation” and he “was left with no choice but to accept much lower pay.”

Kuzik started in Lewiston on Oct. 3 at an annual salary of $122,800, the Lewiston Tribune reported. Ingram makes $154,000 per year, the Idaho Statesman previously reported. That’s a difference of $31,200, with Ingram earning 25% more than Kuzik.

Caldwell is a bigger city, with more than 63,000 residents compared with Lewiston’s 34,000.

Kuzik said he would drop his claim for $272,500, which is equal to his current financial losses plus five years of estimated future lost wages and benefits, the claim said.

©2023 The Idaho Statesman.
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