Baltimore Sheriff John Anderson sued for retaliation by lieutenant
The 2010 election for Baltimore City Sheriff, an office held since the late 1980s by John Anderson, was unusually competitive with five challengers in the Democratic primary. Not surprisingly, given the predictable calculus when challengers split the vote, Anderson won. But one of his challengers – Deborah Claridy, a long-time Anderson lieutenant whose knowledge of the sheriff’s office allowed her to campaign with a detailed critique of Anderson’s management, and who was endorsed by City Paper – now claims Anderson has since made her pay.
On Sept. 8 – nearly three years to the day since the 2010 primary election – Claridy sued Anderson in U.S. District Court, saying he retaliated against her at work for exercising her First Amendment rights on the campaign trail. She now wants Anderson to pay, too – to the tune of $2.5 million.
It is not the first time Claridy has resorted to a legal challenge to force Anderson to change. She was named a lieutenant in 2003 after winning an equal-employment-opportunity case that forced Anderson, two years earlier, to promote her to sergeant.
During the 2010 election, Claridy told City Paper that Anderson was a “fiscally irresponsible” sheriff who “hires friends and cronies who don’t work hard. I want people to know that, and question that, so the courthouse will be cleaned up.”
The lawsuit reiterates many of the details of Claridy’s campaign critiques, including her proposals to: recruit and hire more minorities and women as deputy sheriffs with law-enforcement duties; promote more women to supervisory positions; to make the office the primary agency handling domestic-violence complaints; to add more deputies to courtroom security; to train deputies to assist other agencies with homeland-security duties; to improve the office’s procedures in dealing with homeowners in foreclosure; to upgrade courthouse-security technology; and to end to overtime abuse.
In the lawsuit, Claridy says Anderson started retaliating against her immediately upon her return to work after losing the primary election. She had been the administrative lieutenant, in charge of the office’s day-to-day operations, but claims she was summarily relieved of those duties and assigned instead to conduct “daily courtroom checks” – an assignment that had not previously existed, and for which there was no job description “other than to go to the courtrooms” each day, “observe what transpired” in them, and “make reports of her observations.”
Nonetheless, Claridy’s suit continues, she “performed her new assignment diligently” for eight months – until May 2011, when she was served with 17 administrative disciplinary charges. Many of the charges arose from her campaign activities, and the rest concerned how she carried out her courtroom-check duties. She was immediately suspended from duty and stripped of her police powers. After the charges were dismissed in an Aug. 2011 trial board, Claridy was scheduled to resume work – but was re-charged, this time without any of the campaign-related allegations, and her suspension continued, including of her police powers.
In March 2012, Claridy’s lawsuit continues, Anderson ordered her back to work – but with a new assignment. Now she was directed to read and respond to emails, handle routine paperwork, count prisoners at the courthouse lockup, and check the courthouse doors, hand sanitizers, and phones “to make sure that they were operational.” Meanwhile, her police powers continued to be suspended – until the resolution of her pending disciplinary charges, which Anderson, Claridy contends, is doing nothing to resolve.
The lawsuit also says that “Anderson offered to dismiss all disciplinary charges pending against Claridy, and to purge her personnel jacket of all related adverse information, if she retired. Claridy declined to do so.”
Anderson did not immediately respond to an email and a phone call seeking comment. His aide, reached by phone, says he is currently in Ocean City for a Maryland Sheriffs Association conference.