The Carter County Board of Commissioners went into executive session during their regular meeting Monday to discuss pending litigation on three separate lawsuits that claim wrongful termination from the county.
Once out of session, the commissioners made a motion that Carter County Commissioner’s Board Chairman Joe David McReynolds would be informed of any more discoveries in any of the cases, and another executive session was not necessary.
“Joe is the only one who has been in office during the time of all of these allegations,” Carter County Commissioner for District 3 Jerry Alvord said.
The first lawsuit was filed in Sept. 2016. The civil suit, filed by Becky Wright against the Carter County Board of Commissioners, alleges that Becky Wright was wrongfully terminated from the Carter County Clerk’s office for exposing the alleged corruption of a former Carter County Clerk. The defense claims that Wright was terminated legally and that the entire lawsuit is moot, according to documents filed in the District Court of Carter County.
In December, Wright got new representation and amended her complaint.
The new complaint states that Wright informed the Carter County Sheriff, District Attorney, and FBI that the former Carter County Clerk was allegedly committing criminal acts. The plaintiff argues that in reporting these allegations she was exercising her First Amendment right, and to fire her was an infringement on her right to free speech. The defense alleges that there is no basis for Wright’s lawsuit because the county commissioners have no control over Wright’s hiring and firing.
No other documents have been filed in this case. Amber Gooch, of Collins, Zorn, and Wagner Attorneys At Law in Oklahoma City, representing the county, did not respond to The Ardmoreite’s request for comment before this article went to publication.
In December of 2016, Paula A Crawford filed a lawsuit against the Carter County Board of Commissioners, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, and Sheriff Chris Bryant in his official capacity. The lawsuit claims that Crawford was a 911 communications supervisor at the Carter County Sheriff’s office when, after 16-years of employment, she was terminated by then Sheriff Milton Anthony for not properly responding to a 911 call of a lady indicating her keys were locked in the car, according to court documents filed with the United States District Court Eastern District of Oklahoma.
According to Crawford’s complaint, she was terminated after Anthony “falsely claimed the caller identified that a child was locked in the car. However, the caller never mentioned or referenced a child being in the car.” The complaint says that Crawford was never issued any written disciplinary reprimands on her record at the time of her termination. Her claim is also that other male employees under the age of 40, whom had made similar mistakes, were not reprimanded — alleging that she was terminated based on age and gender discrimination.
These allegations, if true, would violate federal law and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act. The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against individuals over the age of 40 based on age.
U.S. District Judge James H. Payne has referred the case for settlement conference and ordered that Magistrate Judge Steven P. Shreder act as the settlement judge. When the case was filed, Crawford was seeking $75,000 in damages, but no settlement has yet been reached. The settlement conference is set for 10 a.m. May 29, 2018.
In what is the most recent wrongful discrimination case filed against the county, Charline M. Beene filed suit against Anthony, individually and in his official capacity, and Carter County as a political subdivision sued in the name of the Board of County Commissioners in April. The case was filed in the United States Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.
Beene, according to court documents, alleges that she was inappropriately touched by Anthony and as a result of her complaint about the inappropriate action she was fired. Beene’s lawsuit alleges she was terminated based on gender discrimination, which is prohibited by the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, and Title VII of the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act. She is also seeking compensation for damages from alleged sexual assault.
Beene was formerly a deputy at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office, according to court documents. Beene’s complaint alleges that shortly after she was hired, she began hearing information about inappropriate conduct of the Sheriff, “including him dating female felons.” The complaint says that in one instance Anthony leaned over and touched Beene’s shoulders and arms before deliberately touching her breasts.
The court documents state that in June of 2016 Beene was placed on administrative leave with pay, and Anthony was suspended for sexual misconduct.
Gooch is representing the county in this case and claims that any litigation against the County Commissioners is moot because they were not her employer and any actions taken against her were made by a third party that the commissioners had no control over.
In regard to allegations against Anthony individually, his attorney Jessica Dark, Robert S. Lafferrandre and Randall J. Wood, all of Pierce, Couch, Hendrickson, Baysinger and Green in Oklahoma City, states that Anthony did not commit any sexual acts towards Beene, according to the answer filed by the attorneys to the plaintiff’s claim in court.
Dark said she is “unable to comment on any pending litigation.”
Check back with The Ardmoreite for updates to these lawsuits as they become available.