Fired Belmont County deputy files lawsuit

ONE OF three Belmont County Sheriff’s deputies fired last summer is suing the county and several county officials.

Christina Corl, an attorney for Barbara A. Snyder, filed the civil lawsuit in the United States Southern District Court of Ohio Eastern Division late Wednesday afternoon. Snyder was employed at the jail since 1996, starting as a part-time jailer before being promoted to sergeant in 2000.

In the suit, Snyder, of Barton Road, St. Clairsville, claims that she was unjustly discharged from her position for various reasons. In addition, she alleges sexual discrimination and retaliation.

She is demanding a jury trial and is seeking over $75,000 for back pay from the date of discharge; front pay; compensatory damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, and pain and suffering; and court costs, expenses, attorney’s fees and punitive damages.

Named as defendants are the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Fred A. Thompson, Jail Administrator Allen G. Porter, Chief Deputy Joseph C. Hummel, and the Belmont County Board of Commissioners. Thompson, Porter and Hummel are being sued individually as well as in their official capacity.

None of the aforementioned parties had comments Thursday.

The allegations stem from a March investigation into alleged abuse on an inmate at the jail in December of 2006. Following a month-long probe by the FBI, which reportedly cost the county $700,000, it was revealed that Snyder had no involvement in the accusations.

According to court documents, on March 23, 2007, Thompson informed Snyder he was placing her on administrative leave because the mistreatment allegations targeted Snyder’s work shift.

However, by the end of the probe, Snyder was cleared of any wrongdoing because it was established that she was not working at the time of the alleged inmate abuse. Despite the FBI findings, she was still kept on administrative leave. She was then terminated in early June of last year for what was labeled as “gross misconduct.”

Corl, of Columbus, said her client also filed the suit because she was not given the same opportunity as two other deputies.

In addition to Snyder’s firing, fellow Sergeant Gene Beckett and shift supervisor Lenae Coyne were also released from their jobs, but David Hilliard Jr. and Steven Kovalick submitted letters of resignation after being given a choice.

Corl also said that in October 2004, Snyder made a sexual harassment complaint against Porter. Tom McCort was the sheriff at the time of the complaint and he hired outside investigators to initiate an independent investigation which found the allegation to be justified.

According to court documents, Thompson took office in January 2005 and was fully informed of the situation and had sufficient knowledge of the material facts and circumstances relevant to Snyder’s claims.

The document then states that Thompson fired Porter, which the sheriff refuted Thursday. Porter was re-hired shortly thereafter and the suit alleges it became clear that Porter held a grudge against the plaintiff.

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