published Friday, July 15th, 2011

New filing asked in Murray woman’s sex bias lawsuit

The federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Murray County and former sole commissioner David Ridley does not provide specific claims and some parts are “redundant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous,” according to the county’s lawyer.

A motion filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Rome, Ga., asks the federal judge to order the county employee who filed the lawsuit to refile her complaint and to strike some parts of the lawsuit.

But lawyers for the woman who filed the lawsuit called the motion a stalling tactic and said they are optimistic the judge will not grant the motion.

The Murray County employee first filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Ridley on March 16, alleging that Ridley forced her to commit sex acts and viewed pornography on her computer.

She filed a lawsuit in May, claiming that several county employees knew about the sexual harassment but did not report it. The lawsuit also says Murray County’s form of sole commissioner government did not have appropriate review mechanisms and no way to bypass Ridley with her complaints.

Ridley, who took office in January 2009, resigned less than two weeks after the woman’s EEOC complaint was filed.

Atlanta attorney Ben Mathis, representing Murray County in the case, filed the motion for a more definitive statement and the motion to strike Wednesday. In addition to the short motion, Mathis filed a 13-page memorandum to support it.

The memorandum says, “Simply put, plaintiff’s complaint is so vague, ambiguous, and confusing that the county cannot reasonably prepare a response. Apparently, plaintiff intends for the defendants — or this court — to cull through her rambling complaint and attempt to discern which claim(s) she is attempting to assert against which party or parties and to match up which facts support which claim(s).”

The county’s response to the lawsuit was due Thursday, but the new motion forestalls that deadline, at least until the judge makes a ruling.

Stuart James, the lawyer for the woman, said he would clarify parts of the lawsuit if needed, but said the 13-page memorandum is proof Mathis had no problem understanding the lawsuit.

“If they had such a hard time understanding the complaint, how were they able to respond so succinctly (in the motion),” James said. “The facts are very clear.”

The motion also asks the judge to strike the parts of the lawsuit about the Murray County government.

“Initially, plaintiff’s contentions simply are false since a sole commissioner form of government plainly is lawful under Georgia law,” the motion says. “In any event, plaintiff’s allegations that the county’s form of government is inadequate and unconstitutional and should be ‘stricken and replaced’ have no bearing whatsoever on her claims of sexual harassment.”

The lawsuit does not say the sole commissioner form is unlawful, James said, but that it did not provide the woman the chance to go to someone else with her complaints.

“David Ridley was Murray County. David Ridley sexually harassed our client. It can’t get any clearer than that,” James said.

James said he would file a response to the motion next week, then the judge likely would make a ruling.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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