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Employee Sues Annapolis Housing Authority for Reverse Discrimination

Katherine Ferris, who is white, claims she was discriminated against by her superiors, who are black.

A woman is suing the Housing Authority for the City of Annapolis (HACA) for $1.25 million claiming her superiors mistreated her because of her race.

Katherine Ferris, who is white, states in court documents filed in U.S. District Court on Aug. 30 that HACA's Executive Director Vincent Leggett, who is black, "engaged in racial discrimination and racially discriminatory practices," against her.

News of the lawsuit was first reported by The Capital Gazette.

The Glen Burnie resident was employed by HACA in June 2007 and started working as Leggitt's assistant in January 2011—after he was appointed executive director.

Ferris alleges that one month later, Cynthia Carter, vice chair of HACA's board, "began a campaign to oust me by sending an email of complaint regarding my competency,” according to online court documents.

In her email, Carter wrote, "There is great concern over the improper way of record keeping and minute taking at Eastport Community Center ... Obviously the recording secretary and some of the board of commissioners have a serious memory recall problem ... I and others need a fair and adequate answer about the incompetent recording system of these very important meetings.”

She claims that Carter attempted to humiliate her by distributing the email to "many unnecessary recipients," including, Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen, Speaker of the House Michael Busch (D-Annapolis) and U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Towson).

Stephen Stern, the attorney representing HACA, responded in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that Ferris was not the only person singled out for criticism in the email, and the list of recipients was valid because "political representatives" were present at the December meeting.

An email in which Carter specifically discussed being disappointed with Ferris' job performance was only sent to three people: Leggitt, HACA Chief of Staff and Security Joseph Johnson and Board Chairman Carl Snowden.

Stern's motion to dismiss further alleged that Carter's second email was also in response to an email complaint sent by Snowden regarding "administrative errors in public documents that reflect poorly on HACA."

Ferris also alleged in her complaint that she was harassed in March 2011 when HACA became a lifetime member of the NAACP. She stated that Leggitt publicly suggested that she hang the certificate on the wall above her desk.

When she objected to the idea, Ferris' complaint states that Leggitt "openly mocked" her and she was fired four days later.

She also claimed that the African-American woman who replaced her "had no experience in that field of work" and "was not otherwise qualified for the position."

Stern responded in his motion by claiming that Ferris admitted race had little to do with her termination.

He alleged that Ferris admitted her replacement was likely hired because she was a friend of Carter's and that Carter "provided the deciding vote for Mr. Leggett’s appointment in a quid pro quo for Mr. Leggett to bring on her friend."

Ferris' replacement quit within two months of starting the job. Leggitt re-hired Ferris, but she claimed he downgraded the position, reducing her salary and benefits.

Neither Ferris, her attorney or Stern could be reached for comment, and it is not clear if Ferris is still employed by the housing authority.

The final incident raised in the complaint stems from a verbal dispute Ferris had with Miranda Wingate, HACA’s director of Affordable Housing and Occupancy in September 2011.

Wingate allegedly "yelled repeatedly" that Ferris was "a racist" while leaving her office after an argument. Harris claims that the argument started because of the formal complaint she had already filed with the EEOC.

Ferris claims that Wingate “yelled repeatedly” that Ferris was a “racist.” Ferris said the altercation arose from, “the harassment and possible retaliation for the case I have brought against HACA.”

Ferris has until Jan. 14 to respond to HACA's motion to dismiss.

Mike January 09, 2013 at 12:19 AM
And to be entirely precise, correcting myself, Chris O'Brien didn't specify whether he was discussing rightful or wrongful discrimination. My comment about creed earlier only makes sense if Chris O was speaking of wrongful discrimination and included creed. If he was only speaking of discrimination, right or wrong, then creed goes in the list and my earlier point is dead wrong.
Mike January 09, 2013 at 01:46 AM
Let me get this straight: "HACA became a lifetime member of the NAACP" Seriously, the Housing Authority for the City of Annapolis (HACA), a local government entity is a "lifetime member of the NAACP?!" Is this true? What does it even mean, if it is? That city tax dollars were donated to a political organization? Is it purely an "honorary" title/membership? Can we get a confirmation/clarification on this one?
Joe Mahma January 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Anna, you're perpetuating a misnomer and should know better. The term you stupidly used does not belong in our language, makes no sense as you used it, and you have no defense. Discrimination is discrimination- period. References you pull out of your silly hat are also incorrect. Mike, creed is typically used, and especially in discussing this sort of subject, any "system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination." Therefore, my use of the word refers to religious discrimination, which anyone would obviously recognize. I find your rape comparison offensive and idiotic. Also, gender is the proper term, just as I used it, and is appropriate--again--in this context. Frankly, the two are almost interchangeable, however sex is no longer the favored term among the educated. Are you also one of the morons who refer to women and ladies as "females?" Go find something else to nitpick and be wrong about. Maybe pick up a dictionary, too.
Mike January 11, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Chris, I think you should focus on your excellent common sense outrage at the phrase "reverse discrimination" and not worry about my nitpicking, which seems to have set you off. I only made the "creed" and "sex" points because in this discussion of language and its implications, precision is more important than usual. I even corrected myself on one point where I had made an assumption about what you'd meant. So please, don't take it personally. But, since you responded, please consider that you are wrong on two points, both of FAR less importance than the main one, on which we agree entirely. First, 'gender' is a property of WORDS, not of persons. Its common interchangeability with 'sex' is simply a common MISTAKE, made not by the "educated" but just the reverse. Language evolves in multiple ways. Some changes actually improve and refine while others are just erosions of specificity by way of perpetuating errors. Equating 'sex' with 'gender' is the latter. Consider 'imply' and 'infer,' which mean VERY different things, may fall victim to the same sort of ignorance. And it IS ignorance, not necessarily stupidity. Someone under 30 is likely never to have heard the word 'gender' used properly. Again, small potatoes, but if one chooses to argue, one should be right. You are even more wrong about 'creed.' While some have used it in the context you mention, precedent does not dismiss their error. Race and sex are innate and uncorrelated to beliefs. cont'd
Mike January 11, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Creed, in ALL of its definitions and contexts, has to do with a person's beliefs. Where traditional, well-intended criticisms of the naughty sorts of 'discrimination' are based upon attributes, like race and sex, that the individual cannot control and that are de-coupled from beliefs. ('Discrimination' gets a bad rap. It basically means distinguishing between things. It can be sensible and commendable, as with Shinola and other things. Or it can be immoral, as in hiring based upon race.) The creed of a serial rapist should offend everyone, but the mere mention of the existence of such a creed should be offensive to none. Just as the term 'serial rapist' itself should not offend anyone. Bad things rightly get labels along with everything else, and the existence of the label neither advocates nor justifies--it merely recognizes and identifies. But again, as I said in my first post, I meant no offense then and I mean none now. My nitpicking on the FAR less important points was praising with faint damnation. In my first comment, I called those minor points "nitpicky and technical." The most important point, by far, is that "reverse discrimination" is a bad phrase to use, for exactly the reasons you and I both cited.

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