Tuesday, July 19, 2011

19 JUL 11: Sexism and the City

At first glance, the complaint doesn't make sense. Columbus has a female mayor. A female mayor pro tem. A female school superintendent. A female school board president. So how can there possibly be gender discrimination in city government? Aren't women running practically everything now?

Well, maybe they aren't. An attorney revealed Monday three Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputies are suing Sheriff John Darr and the city, claiming gender discrimination. This apparently is the "hurricane" attorney Mark Shelnutt warned was coming in Sunday's newspaper - only misspelled with a "u."

Three female deputies claim Sheriff John Darr has passed them by over the last two years, while constantly promoting males. Terri Ezell even says she was demoted last year from the rank of major. Talk about attempting to give new meaning to a "major blunder"....

Fellow plaintiff Joan Wynn claims after she was passed over for the rank of Captain, she was given an office next to Sheriff John Darr to "cause her distress and discomfort." That's funny - in some workplaces, sitting close to the corner office means you're next in line for something big.

The lawsuit filed in federal court claims Sheriff John Darr set up a "glass ceiling" for female deputies - and did it with the knowledge of Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley. Aw c'mon! If he couldn't spot years of conspiracy in the Parks and Recreation Department, how could he know about this one?

Two of the three plaintiffs say they have more in common than their gender and badges. They claim Sheriff John Darr refuses to promote them because they supported Ralph Johnson in the 2008 election. If that's true, it seems awfully harsh. President Obama hasn't even treated Hillary Rodham Clinton that way.

It's noteworthy that the plaintiffs in federal court do NOT include the deputy accused of leaking records of co-workers in the Sheriff's Office. Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson said Monday it appears some computer records were hacked. Maybe so - but if Wikileaks hasn't posted them, what's the big deal?

But it's also noteworthy that Columbus Council approved a $26,000 settlement to another sheriff's deputy earlier this year in a similar discrimination case. Now three more women are suing. But of course, not every woman in the office can sue at once - since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that was cruel and unusual punishment against Wal-Mart.

City Attorney Clifton Fay promises to work "vigorously" to defend the city in this discrimination suit. But I'm not sure his side is off to a good start. The only woman Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson could find to stand with her at a Monday news conference was a member of the police.

Mayor Tomlinson's news conference related to law enforcement, but in a different way. Her copper theft task force now is offering $1,000 rewards for information which leads to the arrest of copper thieves. The mayor had enough good taste to stop short of calling the tip line "Copper Stoppers."

(If the task force is smart, they'll pay the $1,000 reward with a check - and absolutely NOT with rolls of pennies.)

Another public safety moment tops our review of other Monday news....

+ Columbus Police were called to a dumpster on Warm Springs Road. There were concerns a dead human body might be inside. Thankfully, that was false - as officers told WTVM it was a dead pig. It looks like the next sting by undercover detectives could be at barbecue restaurants.

+ WRBL and the Ledger-Enquirer announced a new media partnership. This is a bit of deja vu, since the newspaper was a majority owner of that station about 40 years ago. In the last decade, the Ledger-Enquirer had agreements with WTVM and WLTZ - so it's simply WRBL's turn in the rotation.

+ The Muscogee County School Board approved adjustments in the student dress code. Spokesperson Valerie Fuller told WXTX one change will bar jewelry which can be considered a distraction. Sorry, teenage guys -- you'll have to ask for prom dates in a more old-fashioned way, but at least you'll save money.

+ Opelika Light and Power announced a man will visit each home in the city during the coming months, to check electric meters and shoot a short video. The utility promises the man will drive a marked car, wear a badge - and NOT set up anything which will bring a lawsuit by Google Maps.

+ Instant Message to the driver of a car I saw on Macon Road with the Alabama tag "PRKYBLN": I'm going to assume you're perky - because I really doubt you'd brag about that other possible word on a license plate.

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