SEATTLE — Another former deputy has filed a lawsuit against King County, accusing Sheriff John Urquhart of discriminating against female officers.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by 56-year-old Andrea Alexander, a 26-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, who claims Urquhart illegally fired her, The Seattle Times reported (https://goo.gl/UkYxgq).

The suit claims the sheriff unfairly subjected Alexander to an internal investigation in 2013 after department officials discovered she’d been mistakenly overpaid.

The suit also contends the investigation was a means for Urquhart to fire Alexander on a drummed up dishonesty violation after she protested her removal from an assignment as a patrol training sergeant.

An arbitrator later found Alexander had been dishonest, but that her discipline wasn’t reasonable and Alexander won her job back. Alexander claims Urquhart continued retaliating against her and the suit contends she was shuffled into undesirable job assignments before retiring.

“This is just another example of John Urquhart fundamentally damaging a person’s reputation through his vindictiveness and reckless retaliation,” Julie Kays, the Seattle lawyer representing Alexander, said in an interview with the newspaper. “It’s no secret this is how he operates.”

Urquhart defended his firing of Alexander as appropriate in a statement Wednesday.

“Andrea Alexander took money for an extended period of time while knowing she was not entitled to that money, which she admitted,” the statement said. “An outside arbitrator agreed. She was subsequently fired for dishonesty. She never once raised a claim of retaliation or harassment as a reason for the investigation or termination.”

Two of Urquhart’s commanders told Alexander she was being “disciplined” when they removed her in 2012 from her longtime training assignment, according to the lawsuit.

Alexander contends she protested the move, asking the commanders to explain. The superior officers allegedly responded with only blank stares and by walking out of her office, the suit alleges.

“Alexander knew in that moment that she was being treated differently than her peers and retaliated against because she is a woman, gay, and African American,” the lawsuit states. “It was and is well known within the KCSO that Sheriff Urquhart has engaged in a pattern of vindictive and retaliatory acts against women and gay women.”

The lawsuit cites two other bias lawsuits brought primarily by female deputies that have resulted in a combined $2.35 million in settlements since December 2013.

Alexander doesn’t specify in her suit an amount of damages she is seeking.


Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com