A former female deputy has sued Sheriff Scott Berry and Oconee County, claiming that a “secret derogatory file” was used to unfairly criticize her job performance.
Lisa Price has asked for back pay, reinstatement or compensation to retirement age and compensatory damages for emotional pain. She charges in federal court that she was discriminated against as a woman.
Price’s suit states that in the summer of 2014 she was told by Lt. Griffin Attaberry that her superiors had “created and maintained a secret derogatory file regarding her job performance.”
She said that Attaberry allowed her to review the file. She said she found numerous “derogatory remarks and unfair criticism” of her performance. She cited one example, that “maligned her traffic enforcement records, questioned her professionalism and criticized her commitment to the morale and safety of her fellow police officers.”
Price told Attaberry that she did not believe the file accurately reflected her job performance. He asked her if secret derogatory files were maintained on any of the male deputies and employees. The suit states that Attaberry was initially evasive.
Price pressed him. “Am I right?”
“You’re not wrong,” Attaberry said, according to the lawsuit. Attaberry has resigned from the Sheriff’s Office and is working in private business.
Price said that Attaberry said that the file would be destroyed and that Sgt. Scott Underwood would be disciplined. He had created some of the derogatory remarks, the suit alleges.
Price maintains that when she was terminated July 14, 2015, the file had not been destroyed. She believes the file was critical in her being turned down for promotions and eventually in being terminated.
Price in April 7, 2015, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination on the basis of sex. The suit states that in a meeting April 30, 2015, Sheriff Berry subsequently “attempted to demoralize her into either resigning or withdrawing her charge.” Price said Chief Deputy Lee Weems and Lt. Paul Maxey were also in that meeting.
Price maintains that she was subjected to “unwarranted discipline” and more intense scrutiny than her male counterparts endured. She believes her termination was retaliation for the EEOC complaint.
Price started working with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office in August 2006 after three years service with the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office. She complains in her lawsuit that her three years of service with Clarke County were discounted and that she was not promoted to corporal until after she had worked for Oconee County for three years.
Price maintains that she participated in training programs offered by various entities. She said she personally trained three of her male colleagues: Tony Coyne, Jeremy Wasdin and Clark Sparrow. All three were promoted to sergeant.
Price says she “was never promoted to sergeant despite possessing equal or greater qualifications” than the aforementioned.
Price said she and Wasdin applied for the same sergeant’s position. She complains that despite the fact that she trained Wasdin and “was substantially more qualified,” Wasdin was chosen for the sergeant’s position.
She said Coyne was promoted to sergeant for a position that was “unannounced and not open to competition from plaintiff.”
Price said she was told by her peers that Sheriff Berry had promoted Coyne so that Price would not be able to compete against him for the position.
Price said the pattern repeated itself when she and Sparrow applied for the same sergeant’s position. She alleges that Sparrow was chosen for the position “despite the fact that he had been written up two weeks prior to his selection for a serious safety infraction.” Price said that official policy prevents an individual from being promoted within six months of being “written up.”
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