Governor Phil Bryant says it's time for sexist behavior in state agencies to stop.
In a recent interview with The Clarion-Ledger, Bryant was livid about two recent cases within the Department of Public Safety in which settlements were paid out for sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.
"It stops here. It’ll stop at this office going forward with all executive agencies, with any power and influence I have over other agencies that are in the state," he said. "We have to take responsibility if things are going wrong and obviously there are things that have gone wrong, and what I can do now is help remedy those, but make sure people understand this better not happen again. And I think they’ve got that message. If they have not you’ll see some career-altering decisions that will be made."
DPS settled for $75,000 with Penny Nichols Corn, a female employee claiming sexual discrimination and retaliation by Director Rusty Barnes at the Department of Homeland Security. She said she was passed over for promotion to deputy director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security because of her sex. She claimed that after she complained, her right to drive a DPS vehicle to and from work was revoked while two men who worked under her were still allowed to drive theirs. ...
MBN has asked a federal judge to allow public disclosure of the terms of the settlement of a sexual harassment complaint filed against the agency and former Deputy Director Mike Perkins, who resigned August 4th.
MBN, also a sub-agency of DPS, recently settled a lawsuit brought in 2015 by Mary Katherine Sullivan, then an MBN employee. She said she was subjected to sexual comments, dirty jokes and sexual propositions by Perkins and was refused salary increases. Her suit against DPS claimed there was a well-known "Perkins Scale," on which Perkins allegedly graded female MBN job applicants on their sexual desirability.
Oh really? Well, Governor, it's hard to take you seriously on this issue when you've done nothing about the problem despite years of reporting on this subject by this website. JJ reported three years ago that one female officer who works at one of the state law enforcement agencies put on a strip show for other agents present. The good ole boys thought it was funny and allowed her to keep her job and rank. Some readers said the letter was just stuff made up by disgruntled employees.
Next up is the Gayle McMullin case. JJ broke that story on June 11, 2015:
A Leftenant at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety won a round in her battle to prove that Mississippi Highway Patrol Colonel Don Barry discriminated against her when he promoted Master Sergeant Marshall Pack to the vacated position of Training Director. Plaintiff Leftenant Gayle McMullin is white while Colonel Berry and Master Sergeant Pack are black. She argued -and two courts agreed- she was better qualified for the job. U.S. District Judge Carleton Reeves dismissed her case with prejudice on a motion for summary judgment but the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Reeves and ordered him to hold a trial.
The case settled a year ago. JJ reported a year ago that Penny Corn sued DPS for sex discrimination:
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.DPS settled that case for $75,000 in April. However, that is not the last of these cases. JJ reported on July 18, 2016 that MBN settled a sexual harassment lawsuit:
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".....
Does MBN have a good ole boy culture of crude sexual jokes, harassment of female employees, and a dreaded "Perkins Scale"? that rates women based on looks? The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics settled a sexual harassment suit last month for undisclosed terms. MBN Special Projects Officer Mary Katherine Sullivan sued MBN on September 4, 2015 for alleged acts of sexual harassment committed by MBN Deputy Director Mike Perkins. Ms. Sullivan alleged in her complaint...
Mr. Perkins resigned when the Clarion-Ledger reported the settlement a few weeks later. Then there is the case of one Officer Redfruit. 'Nuff said about that one (The comments are gold.)
Frankly, it is hard to take the Governor's comments seriously. There is a culture of racism, sexism, and just plain dumbism at Mississippi state law enforcement agencies. JJ has reported these stories since 2013 yet the Governor only takes action when gasp, the Clarion-Ledger reports them. A tree apparently makes no sound unless the "state newspaper" reports it in his universe. The good ole boys don't see anything wrong with the behavior that created these lawsuits. They probably think it's funny and rates an 8 on the Perkins scale. The leadership at these agencies has been weak for quite some time. Leaders are not held accountable. Complaints and lawsuits proliferate as basic HR principles are repeatedly ignored. A criminal suspect probably has more protection than a woman working at these agencies. However, it is nice to see the Governor finally step up to the plate. It remains to be seen if he will actually take a swing at the problem.