Mississippi Department of Homeland Security Director Rusty Barnes resigned from his position this week. He became director in May 2013. JJ reported a year ago that Penny Corn, Grants Director for Homeland Security, sued the Department of Public Safety for sex discrimination and retaliation in federal court. She alleged that Mr. Barnes committed several acts of discrimination against her. The case settled without prejudice in April.
JJ reported in August 2015:
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.
The panel hired Steve Beard for the position. Ms. Corn alleges the retaliation then began in December, 2014. Director Barnes revoked her right to drive her state vehicle "to and from work" while eight MDHS employees are allowed to do so and all such employees are male. Two of the employees allowed to enjoy this privilege are also employees supervised by Ms. Corn.
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.
Kingfish note: Nice to see the newspaper covering this a year later. Wonder if they will post a big ad patting themselves on the back for the ground breaking coverage on this story.
Oh yes, don't forget Officer Redfruit. One of the best moments on JJ. Comments were gold. Solid gold.