Complaint: Murray commissioner sexually assaulted, harassed worker

Complaint: Murray commissioner sexually assaulted, harassed worker

April 14th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

File photo of former Murray County Commissioner David Ridley.

DALTON, Ga. - A federal complaint filed against former Murray County Commissioner David Ridley alleges that he forced a county employee to commit sex acts and viewed pornography on her computer.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained a copy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed March 16.

The complaint alleges the sexual harassment began in February 2010, when the woman said Ridley forced her to perform oral sex. The harassment continued for a year, the document said.

Ridley, who took office as sole commissioner in January 2009, turned in a letter of resignation March 28. The letter said the job's strenuous requirements made him neglect important family and business matters.

Ridley has not responded to several messages left on his cell phone since his resignation. On Wednesday, a recording said his number no longer was in service.

Interim Sole Commissioner and County Manager Tom Starnes declined to discuss the complaint on Wednesday, citing the ongoing legal action.

The county was notified of the EEOC complaint on April 6, and Starnes said that was the first he had heard of it.

In the days after Ridley's resignation, Starnes said he was not aware of any legal action against Ridley.

Murray County Attorney Greg Kinnamon said lawyers for the county's insurance company are handling the complaint and the county's response. The first he heard about the complaint was when the woman's attorneys came to him after it was filed, Kinnamon said.

According to the complaint, Ridley talked to the woman about sexual acts, reached up her skirt, put his hand down the front of her pants, asked her to perform sexual acts and rubbed his hand down her leg and over other parts of her body.

The complaint provides explicit details about more than a dozen alleged comments and acts, including Ridley telling the woman he planned to get her a stripper for Valentine's Day and saying she should get cleaning supplies and a maid skirt because she is good at cleaning.

Ridley also viewed pornography from two different websites on the woman's computer, the complaint states.

Ridley's acts "created a work environment that suppressed anyone from complaining of the actions," the complaint states, and "were designed to suppress women in the office, to create an atmosphere of fear, to create an atmosphere of dominance and sexual dominance and to prevent any complaints to any other outside source."

The complaint accuses Ridley of violating the Civil Rights Act and the Murray County sexual harassment policy.

A Murray County ordinance passed in 1997 prohibits sexual harassment, and the county has a policy against viewing obscene material on the county's Internet system.

The complaint is signed by the woman and attorney McCracken "Ken" Poston, who confirmed Wednesday that he signed it. He and attorney Stuart James represent the woman, Poston said.

Poston declined to comment about the complaint or whether the woman had complained to county officials before going to the EEOC.

Murray County District Attorney General Kermit McManus said his office has not been asked to investigate or been informed of any criminal charges against Ridley.

In his resignation letter, Ridley said his decision to resign as sole commissioner was voluntary. The full-time position pays $98,174 a year.

"[D]ue to the strenuous requirements of the job, I have neglected certain other important family and business matters," the letter states. "I sincerely hope that each of you will honor my decision as it was my voluntary decision and the best decision for me and my family."

The county will hold a special election June 21 to replace Ridley.