A Mississippi Department of Public Safety employee sued DPS for sex discrimination and retaliation in U.S. District Court on August 10. Penny Corn was the Grants Director for the Office of Homeland Security at DPS. The department is currently fighting several discrimination lawsuits and complaints.
Ms. Corn began working at the DPS in September 2007, but is not a sworn law enforcement officer. She sought a Deputy Director position in July, 2014, but alleges Homeland Security Director Everett "Rusty" Barnes said he would not consider her for the promotion because she was not a certified law enforcement officer and thus did not qualify for the position. Ms. Corn told him being a sworn law enforcement officer "was not a qualification for the position" but the Director said "the men in the field would not respect her" because "she was a woman".
She filed a grievance in August, 2014 with DPS Commissioner Santa Cruz. She met with the commissioner to discuss her grievance, but Steve Beard was already promoted to the position. Ms. Corn argued Mr. Beard did not meet the minimum qualifications for the position. She also asked the the Commissioner to remove Mr. Barnes from his position for his acts of discrimination and Mr. Beard from his position as well since he was not qualified.
Commissioner Cruz reportedly stated in a written response to her:
While I am not going to remove Director Barnes' from his position at the MDHS, after careful review and consideration, I do think that we need to have a posted interview before a properly constructed board for the position of Deputy Director.
As such, and in view of your request, we are going to rescind the appointment of Steve Beard as Deputy Director. I have instructed the personnel department to begin the process of posting this position as being available for the interview. We will conduct interviews of all qualified applicants according to the position.However, the plaintiff charges things did not go according to Cruz's plan. She claimed Mr. Cruz said Mr. Barnes would not take part in the hiring of a Deputy Director, as it would be conducted by an interview panel. She claims Mr. Barnes chaired the interview panel and chose "the members" of the panel based upon his own discretion instead of a list of people chosen by Human Resources.
Ms. Corn is represented by attorney Dennis Horn. She seeks back pay, damages, and attorney's fees. She also asks the court to promote her to the position of Deputy Director. Ms. Corn's Facebook page states she left the position as MDHS Grants Director in March, 2015. She is currently director of the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety, which is a division of the Department of Public Safety Planning, which is a division of DPS. The case has been assigned to Judge Henry Wingate.