Former Murray commissioner faces harassment complaint
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Days before Murray County, Georgia, sole commissioner David Ridley unexpectedly resigned a female employee under his supervision filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Ridley resigned March 28th, citing a need to concentrate on his family and business operations at a poultry farm he owns.
Channel 3 Eyewitness News obtained a copy of the complaint filed last month by a woman who has worked for Murray County for nearly 30 years.
The woman claims the sexual harassment began in February of 2010, when Ridley forced her to perform oral sex. Several of the incidents detailed in the complaint are too graphic to report. The woman says Ridley exposed himself and fondled her.
In the complaint, she says the sexual advances continued for a year and include Ridley viewing pornography websites on her computer and other actions designed to "create an atmosphere of fear, to create an atmosphere of dominance and sexual dominance, and to prevent any complaints to any other outside source."
Attorneys representing the woman, Stuart James and McCracken Poston, told us the woman felt helpless to report Ridley, in large part because she was undergoing treatment for cervical cancer and feared losing her health insurance. Once doctors told her she is cancer free, James says his client was ready to stand up to Ridley but Murray County's personnel policy made that difficult. The way it's currently written, James says the woman's only recourse was to report the harassment to Ridley, the man doing the harassing.
On Thursday, Channel 3 went to Ridley's house to ask for a response to the allegations. Ridley's wife said she knew nothing about it and asked to read the complaint. She urged Ridley to read it, too, and to respond. However, Ridley refused to read the document and called his attorney. After a brief phone conversation, he declined our request for comment and ordered us off his property.
Murray County Manager Tom Starnes told us the county is taking the allegations very seriously. The county's insurance carrier is currently conducting an investigation so the county will be able to respond to the complaint.
The woman's attorneys are considering asking the EEOC to issue an immediate right-to-sue letter, which would strengthen their case.
In addition to his role as county manager, Starnes is also serving as interim sole commissioner. County voters will decide on a permanent replacement in June.