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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.

Karen Essen January 07, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Hey, don't join the Mafia if you're not Italian! HACA is one of many bogus local organizations that we taxpayers are forced to fund. If HACA was closed down right now, there would be absolutely no negative result. Except its staff would have to look for bogus state jobs where you get paid simply for being black. Which isn't difficult in Maryland...
Joe Mahma January 07, 2013 at 08:40 PM
There truly is no such thing as "reverse" discrimination. Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of the race, creed, gender, etc. of either party.
Chris S. January 07, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Hey Karen did the white robe and hood come with the membership card or does that cost extra?
M French January 08, 2013 at 01:59 PM
I sympathize with Ms. Ferris, for I went through a similar action back in the 70's in Philadelphia when the NAACP was threatening to boycott Smith Kline and French because they felt they didn't hire enough African Americans.. I was a newly-hired graphic artist of 6 months, so was the first to go, among approximately 10 other employees - all Causasian. We were all replaced by African Americans. As a result, about 15 people resigned from the company in protest, three being high level art directors who had been there for years. . It was very upsetting to me and my family, for the person who replaced me had no training in the graphics field. I learned several months later after I had found another job, when I was contacted by the firm , that the person who had replaced me had left the job. They wanted me back. It was too late. Discrimination of all kinds must be stopped, and talented people should not be sacrificed for political agendas. I think Leggitt and Cynthia Carter should both be fired for their intimidation and discriminatory practices, and that the lawsuit should be pursued.
db21403 January 08, 2013 at 03:44 PM
I agree but if we had to define "reverse discrimination" it would be when the class of people who prefer to do the discriminating "feel" like they're getting a taste of their own medicine. I believe psychologists would refer to this as Projection.
Joe Mahma January 08, 2013 at 10:29 PM
@db21403: "We" don't have to define anything as there is no place for any form of discrimination in this day and age. I was simply and politely pointing out that the language in the headline, composed by a supposed "journalist," was inaccurate and inane. If someone wants to pose as a journalist, he/she should have better command of the language and context of the words in which he/she choose to communicate. And no, I'm actually not fond of journalists because they often embellish, fabricate, and sensationalize the news, as I'm sure this headline intended.
Anna Staver (Editor) January 08, 2013 at 10:41 PM
The headline was not intended to be sensational. Reverse discrimination is a real term used frequently in both legal arguments and colloquial conversation. Here is the definition --> http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reverse+discrimination You can also view these legal cases on reverse discrimination compiled by the U.S. Department of the Interior --> http://www.doi.gov/pmb/eeo/cases/reverse.cfm
Mike January 08, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Ms. Staver, whille I understand full well what you are saying, it is very easy to find a precedent for almost anything. It is certainly easy to find precedents for any euphemism or poorly-chosen phrase, such as 'reverse discrimination.' What this person is suing over is 'racial discrimination.' Racial discrimination is wrong regardless of the races involved. When someone tap-dances around this most obvious truth, honest people should have questions about his character and the nature of his interest in the color of skin.
Mike January 08, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Chris O'Brien wrote: "There truly is no such thing as "reverse" discrimination. Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of the race, creed, gender, etc. of either party." db21403 wrote: "I agree but if we had to define "reverse discrimination" it would be when the class of people who prefer to do the discriminating "feel" like they're getting a taste of their own medicine" Quick aside, Chris is wrong about "creed." Creed has to do with beliefs and morality, or lack thereof. There are plenty of creeds that are worth discriminating against, for instance, the creed of a serial rapist. (And the word he seeks is 'sex' not 'gender.' This is perpetuation of a common error--precious few get it right.) But beyond those nitpicky technical points, Chris is dead right in the thrust of what he is saying. And for db21403 to characterize whole groups by something as sweeping as "the class of people who prefer to do the discriminating" is inherently shoddy thinking and incredibly counter-productive for reasoned discourse about a longstanding, touchy subject.
Mike January 08, 2013 at 11:21 PM
I would comment about the appalling nature of Chris S.'s post, but he has sufficiently marginalized his own credibility. If one wants to challenge Karen's post, it would be better to ask her to furnish evidence of her allegations and/or to provide evidence to dispute them.
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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