Federal lawsuit filed today against Kay County jail director, board, and former Capt.November 5, 2019 | Courts|Featured
By SHARON ROWEN | KAY NEWSCOW
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Kay County Justice Facilities Authority, doing business as Kay Detention Center, director Don Jones, and former Capt. Matthew Ware are being sued in Oklahoma Western District Court by former Administrative Lieutenant Stephanie Wright.
According to court documents, Wright was employed at the jail from March 1, 2011 until Aug. 14, 2018 when she was involuntary terminated. The document filed today in Federal Court by Hammons, Hurst & Associates, list 33 facts.
Fact No. 9.
On Sept. 21, 2017, a female officer told Wright she was being sexual harassed by a male employee. Wright reported the complaint to Ware, who at the time was Lt. Chief of security.
Ware reportedly dismissed Wright’s remarks and report regarding the harassment and as far as Wright knows, no responsive action was taken.
Fact No. 10
On Sept. 27, 2017, Jones requested a meeting with Wright to discuss the harrassment allegations. Jones reportedly instructed Wright to bring all future allegations directly to him.
On Oct. 16, 2017, Wright requested a meeting with Jones in which she presented him a written formal grievance regarding Ware’s inappropriate behavior. The next day Jones requested a meeting with her and reportedly stated, “think long and hard about how you want to move forward with the current situation.” He also reportedly told Wright her behavior was “unbecoming” and instructed her to stop discussing any issues she has with Ware. After Wright filed the complaints, Jones and Ware reportedly became combative towards her and reportedly ignored her questions. They also reportedly denied her access to work-related information needed for her to perform certain job duties. The pair would also walk away during conversations.
On Feb. 2, 2018, Wright was assigned to do security on an inmate who was being hospitalized and was in the final stages of cirrhosis of the liver. Wright learned that the sick inmate had been held in a padded cell for nearly 42 days. The padded cell had no water source, no bed, and no bathroom facilities outside of a hole in the floor. The inmate reportedly was cleared by mental health physicians, however Ware reportedly refused to remove the inmate from the padded cell.
On Feb. 3, 2018, Ware reportedly ordered an inmate cuffed and both arms extended out in a crucifixion-type pose for nearly one-hour. The inmate was reportedly not combative and had not shown aggression to any officers. Wright reported the abuse and assaults to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Brown and to then Kay County District Attorney investigator Chris Edwards. Wright made the complaints as a citizen and not as an employee.
On Feb. 8 an investigator visited the jail and on Feb. 9, Jones reportedly approached Wright and demanded all files in her possession, demoted her and ordered her to report to a floor supervisor. Wright was later terminated on Aug. 14, 2018. It is alleged in the court documents that Wright’s termination was motivated by both her protected participation and opposition clause action of reporting sexual harassment of a coworker and by her reports of inmate abuse which is protected by the First Amendment. Wright filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employer Opportunity Center on Dec. 12, 2018. The suit alleges that Wright is entitled to all lost earnings and compensation for emotional distress.
The complaints of inmate abuse reported by Wright were investigated by OSBI and Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan, who declined to file charges. He was assigned the case after Kay County District Attorney Brian Hermanson recused.
In a letter Buchanan states “I am declining to file charges relating to these incidents. I do feel compelled to comment on what is an obvious culture from the leadership in the facility to cover up mistakes or outright improper behavior and or violations. Most importantly, employees who have come forward and pointed out such events in an effort to protect inmates or the facility have been met with demotion or termination. This attitude is not in the best interest of the facility or the citizens of Kay County. Learning from and fixing mistakes and being transparent in the process is always the better course.”
Buchanan’s letter states the investigation centered on two primary events, a form of confinement for punishment which is labeled both stretching and or crucifixion. It is defined as sitting a prisoner on a bench handcuffed on either side so that the hands can’t touch the body. Buchanan states that he believes the labels are exaggerations. He adds that in a video, an inmate is shown “crossing his legs comfortably and given a bathroom break.”
Buchanan also states that a review of the policy manual shows the practice appears to be prohibited.