Sheriff’s Office responds to racial discrimination lawsuit

Published 1:09 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and four high-ranking BCSO officials have issued a response to a lawsuit filed by a former deputy who alleges he experienced racial discrimination during and retaliation after his employment there.

In June, former BCSO Deputy Dominic Franks filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging he had been called racial slurs, been subject to retaliation for reporting alleged discrimination and had a gun pointed at his head. Named in that lawsuit were the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Ernie Coleman, Chief Deputy Charlie Rose, Lt. Kelly Cox, former Deputy William Ragland and a sixth defendant referred to as John Doe.

The five named defendants, in an answer drafted by Winston Salem-based Womble Bond Dickinson law firm and submitted to the court Tuesday, roundly deny Frank’s accusations and say that he was terminated from the BCSO for “unstable, aggressive, and unprofessional behavior.” The defendants say this type of behavior continued even after Franks was fired from the sheriff’s office.

After his termination, Franks filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Sheriff’s Office. On reviewing the discrimination charge, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to file suit on his behalf but issued him a letter allowing him to file a civil lawsuit.

“In this lawsuit, Franks falsely alleges that he was subjected to a hostile work place, called racial epithets, and discriminated against when he created a hostile work environment for co-workers, engaged in assaultive and bizarre behavior and made inappropriate, offensive and racially provocative comments about black and white co-workers and residents of Beaufort County,” the answer reads. “Franks falsely alleges, and without evidence, that a Beaufort County deputy sheriff pointed a gun at him and called him racial epithets. Those allegations are denied and except for self-serving plaintiff statements, there is no evidence that they occurred.”

In addition to the suit filed by Franks, a second suit filed by former BCSO Deputy Michael Sheppard is also pending in federal court. Sheppard alleges he was retaliated against after reporting the incidents alleged by Franks to his superiors. Sheppard, likewise, filed a complaint with the EEOC, and was told the Justice Department would not file a suit on his behalf.

The responding document goes on to say that Franks never reported any such incidents to his supervisor, a veteran African-American 1st Sergeant at the BCSO. Only after he was fired, the answer alleges, did he make allegations of discrimination.

Beyond his employment, the response alleges that Franks himself engaged in bizarre and possibly criminal behavior. The defendants accuse him of impersonating the identities of three BCSO deputies and subscribing their work emails to websites for pornography, substance-abuse addiction and adulterous affairs, as well as ordering a dump truck filled with sand to be delivered to one of the men’s home.

“Franks joined another law enforcement agency, but was soon asked to resign for unprofessional behavior,” the answer continues. “He later fired gunshots into his yard because, he claimed, he wanted to deter officers from planting marijuana plants on his property. Franks claimed that he had installed 24 surveillance cameras on his property to monitor intrusions, falsely claimed to be a federal law enforcement agent and threatened private citizens who he believed supported the sheriff’s office.”

Ultimately, the answer contends that Franks was not subject to any racial harassment or retaliation either during or after his employment with the BCSO. The defendants are seeking to recover the cost of the defense, including the attorney’s fees, as well as a trial by jury on any remaining issues in the complaintPREVIOUS COVERAGE

Lawsuits allege racial discrimination, retaliation at Sheriff’s Office