TUNICA – Over the years Tunica County and its sheriff’s department are no strangers to lawsuits. And now current sheriff, Calvin “K.C.” Hamp, finds himself in a legal battle – a lawsuit by three former employees alleging gender discrimination and retaliation.
In a lawsuit, filed Sept. 14 in the Northern District of Mississippi Oxford Division, two former employees of the Sheriff’s Office say they were fired after they called for investigation of alleged sexual misconduct within the department. A third employee, Norma Turner, alleges in the same complaint that she was fired after supporting the sheriff’s opponent in the last election.
The Tunica County Sheriff’s Office and county officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Mississippi Today.
The complaint says that Hamp formed a personal and professional relationship with Eugene Bridges, a constable of Tunica County and commander in the sheriff’s office who the lawsuit alleges had a “proclivity to engage in questionable” relationships with subordinate female employees.
A female officer, who was not named, said Bridges had coerced her into a sexual relationship based upon intimidation and threats, and Willie Dunn – a former assistant chief deputy – approached Hamp to take action on the matter, the complaint states.
According to the lawsuit, Paul Biggins, a former commander in sheriff’s office, then changed the female officer’s shift. The complaint goes on to say that Hamp did not investigate the matter until the female officer filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The female employee met with the investigator to give details of the alleged sexual misconduct towards her by Bridges, saying that he attempted to coerce her into initiating a sexual relationship with Dunn in order to “accuse him of sexual harassment in an effort to ruin his career in law enforcement,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges that Hamp and his investigator falsely implicated Dunn and Biggins, accusing them of sexual harassment to the media.
The lawsuit states that because of the allegations, Hamp terminated Dunn and Biggins in retaliation to “their reports of the sexual misconduct,” “their efforts to ameliorate the situation,” and the female employee’s filing with the EEOC.
Bridges was also terminated.
During this same time period, Hamp was up for reelection. Norma Turner, a 16-year employee with the sheriff’s department alleges in the complaint that she was fired for supporting the “rival candidate” and because “her services were no longer needed.”
The incidents occurred in 2015 and Bridges has been rehired as of last month, a local Memphis television station reported.
The plaintiffs – Dunn, Biggins and Turner – are seeking back pay and lost employee benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages, reinstatement or the alternative front pay for gender discrimination and retaliation, and reasonable costs and attorney fees.
It’s not the first time the Sheriff’s Office has had to defend itself in court.
Last year, Hamp and his former deputy sheriff, Reginald Boykin, were sued by Vincent Morgan, a bails bondman with Interstate Bail Bond Company, for alleged employment discrimination. Morgan claimed that “nepotism played a role in him not doing business in the county” and that Hamp and Boykin “steered business away from him and eventually removed him from the list of approved bonding agents,” the Commercial Appeal reported.
In June, the court ordered the suit be dismissed without prejudice due to an undisclosed settlement between the two parties. However, if the settlement isn’t completed, the case can be reopened.
Prior to Hamp’s election, the two former sheriffs before him were involved in lawsuits that led to them being indicted and their removal from office.
Hamp has been working in law enforcement for over 20 years in Tunica County. He was first elected as the sheriff in December of 2003.