Lawsuit filed against Chief Magistrate Richardson alleging discrimination

In this screen image provided by WSB-TV Channel 2 news, Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson leaves a closed hearing at the Judicial Qualifications Commission office along with attorney King Askew in Atlanta.

A lawsuit filed this week alleges that Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson discriminated against the chief constable on the basis of her sex and race — then retaliated against her by terminating her position.

In the lawsuit, Thometrice Roberson, who has been the chief constable in Floyd County for 10 years, describes the actions of the magistrate as “outrageous.” She alleges he used a racially derogatory term to describe another black female employee as well as being regularly verbally abusive.

She is seeking damages from the county as well as attorney’s fees to “redress” what she characterizes as “pervasive and discriminatory actions.”

She stated the alleged harassment began in 2012 and earlier this year she was banned from entering in the courthouse unless specifically invited by Richardson. She also accused the magistrate of having another constable record conversations between her and others.

The lawsuit continued stating Richardson retaliated against Roberson by “unjustly terminating her employment.” It also contends he attempted to fire her several times prior for reasons he overlooked in white employees.

In July, Richardson signed an order abolishing all three of his constables effective Sept. 1. Constables serve papers such as warrants, subpoenas and writs, oversee evictions and provide security for the small-claims court.

Richardson is an elected constitutional officer with full control of his court, and the County Commission approved his request to transfer the positions to the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office.

When contacted Friday, Richardson said he was not aware of the lawsuit and could not comment because he had not seen it.

Prior to filing the lawsuit this week, Roberson filed a complaint in March with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the EEOC complaint, Roberson said because of Richardson’s racially derogatory comments “I believe I am being discriminated against because I am a black female.”

In that filing she said she was subject to harassment not given to white male employees.

The EEOC responded stating it was unable to conclude that the information she presented in her complaint established violations of the law. In that filing she also said she requested the Judicial Qualifications Commission investigate the magistrate’s actions.

A WSB-TV Channel 2 news broadcast captured images of Richardson leaving a closed meeting with the JQC on June 14.

Proceedings held by the commission, which investigates complaints against judges, are private and not subject to the Georgia Open Records Act.

Generally speaking, results of those investigations are only made public if there is action taken against a judge — such as a reprimand or charges filed.

At this point, no formal announcement by the JQC has been issued concerning Richardson or the proceedings or even if he was the subject of the proceedings.

An unresolved grievance filed with the county by another constable, lends another voice to some of the allegations made by Roberson. The attachment to the grievance states there was an ongoing dispute between the magistrate and constable and described the atmosphere at the Magistrate Court as “toxic.”

He reported several instances to the county, he wrote, but has not been notified that anything had been done about the complaints.

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