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.