Claiming an 11-year pattern of discrimination, harassment and retribution, Carroll County's only female black deputy is suing the county sheriff and several aides for more than $2.5 million.
In a 126-page lawsuit that last week was moved from Baltimore City to Carroll Circuit Court, Lucita A. Matthews claims Sheriff John H. Brown and several top officers tried to intimidate and embarrass her because of her "race and gender."
The suit says that because of her race and gender, she had trouble getting hired, and since has found it daunting to be promoted. When she finally was promoted from deputy first class to corporal -- after numerous complaints to the Maryland Commission on Human Relations -- she was the target of numerous "bogus" internal investigations, subjected to unusually close scrutiny on the job and shunned by many colleagues, the suit says.
And, in the years after her promotion to corporal, she has been demoted to deputy first class, taken a cut in salary and is in danger of losing her certification as a police officer.
"The really scary thing is that what this suit indicates is an utter contempt for the law exhibited by those people we rely on to enforce the law," said Glen M. Fallin, the Carroll County attorney representing Ms. Matthews. "She has desperately needed somebody to tell them to stop, to cease in this incredible repetition of bogus disciplinary actions against her, to stop this horrific prospect of being punished."
Ms. Matthews, 35, continues to work in the department as a correctional officer and is paid about $30,000 a year, Mr. Fallin said. She had lived in Carroll County for nearly 20 years but moved to Baltimore County four years ago because, the suit says, she feared reprisals from deputies. Through Mr. Fallin, she has declined to comment.
Sheriff Brown also declined to talk about the lawsuit.