Former challenger to Baltimore sheriff alleges retaliation after campaign

After losing her bid to unseat Baltimore Sheriff John Anderson in 2010, Deborah Claridy said, she went from being the highest-ranking female sworn deputy in the sheriff's office to being responsible for checking the hand sanitizers in the city courthouses.

On Sunday, Claridy sued Anderson in U.S. District Court, alleging he retaliated against her after she criticized his leadership during the campaign. She is suing Anderson as an individual and seeking at least $2.5 million in relief as well as the restoration of her original job duties.

An aide for Anderson said he and others from the office were unavailable for comment Monday.

Claridy, a lieutenant in the department, was one of five challengers to Anderson in the primary election in 2010, coming in second place with about 24 percent of the vote. The Baltimore sheriff's office is separate from the Police Department and mostly handles things like security in the city courthouses, transporting prisoners and executing warrants.

During her campaign in the Democratic primary, Claridy suggested the sheriff's office needed to hire and promote more women and minorities, make only sworn deputies and not civilians responsible for courtroom security, and stem what she called an abuse of overtime. She also wanted the sheriff's office to handle all cases of domestic violence.

Just before she formally filed to run for office, Anderson approached her and offered her a promotion if she dropped her candidacy, according to the lawsuit.

Immediately after losing the election, Claridy said, she was told by an employee she supervised that she would have a newly created position, but received no training or job description, and was no longer responsible for overseeing a large staff. Instead, she was required to "go to the courtrooms, observe what transpired in the courtrooms and make reports of her observations," according to the lawsuit.

Claridy said she did this job for eight months without complaints or direction from superiors until May 2011, when she was given 17 disciplinary charges and suspended with the loss of her police powers. The charges were related to her actions during the campaign and for not following orders in her new position. All the charges were dismissed by a trial board three months later, but shortly after, the sheriff re-filed only the charges related to her performance in her new position, according to the lawsuit. She was again suspended.

In March 2012, Anderson requested Claridy return to work but continued to keep her police powers suspended until the resolution of the re-filed charges. Her new job duties included "checking the doors to the courtrooms, checking the hand sanitizers in the courthouses, checking the telephones to make sure they were operational" and other minor tasks, according to the lawsuit. Her internal affairs case has not yet been resolved, she said.

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