Former employee settles lawsuit with Wake County Sheriff

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker has settled a lawsuit with a former sheriff’s office employee, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said Tuesday.

The sheriff’s office has settled a lawsuit with longtime former deputy and chief operating officer Richard Johnson. Johnson originally sued his former employer for more than $1 million, alleging wrongful termination, in U.S. District Court in Raleigh in January 2020, The News & Observer previously reported.

The lawsuit was settled for $99,999 after “hours of publicized negotiations,” office spokesman Eric Curry said Tuesday. A third of that amount will go to his legal counsel, Curry said.

Johnson claimed he lost his job in retaliation for demoting Baker’s friend, another MP who allegedly made racist and homophobic remarks, The N&O reported.

“As noted in the filing, there is no admission of liability on the part of the sheriff, but he had to settle a disputed claim,” Curry said in a statement. “The decision is consistent with Sheriff Baker’s commitment to use taxpayer dollars and resources to better serve the residents of Wake County.”

Origins of the lawsuit

Johnson was fired from the sheriff’s office in 2018, shortly after Baker defeated former sheriff Donnie Harrison, who held the position for 16 years.

The events described in the lawsuit occurred in 2017 during Harrison’s administration. Two deputies reported to Johnson that Lt. Teddy Patrick allegedly made remarks during a training session that disparaged whites, gays, and Muslims and that he referred to one deputy as gay in front of the others.

Following an internal investigation, Harrison demoted Patrick to lead investigator, the prosecution alleges. Baker and Patrick were close friends, according to the lawsuits.

When Baker was elected, Patrick was part of his transition team. Baker promoted him, eventually making him second in command. He would not swear at Johnson, the lawsuit states.

Baker argued the lawsuit was political, The N&O reported.

“This lawsuit is a politically motivated, thinly veiled effort to cast a negative light on current Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker,” Baker’s attorney said in an unsuccessful argument to have Johnson’s lawsuit thrown out. ‘era.

Wake Sheriff faces lawsuits from former employees

The settled lawsuit is just one the sheriff faces as he campaigns to retain his seat in the 2022 election.

In April last year, the two former Wake County deputies who originally reported Patrick to Harrison sued Baker in federal court in a separate lawsuit, alleging he fired them in retaliation for reported his friend’s racist and homophobic comments.

The MPs, Steven Williamson and Alvis Speight, say they were fired a month into Baker’s new term as the first and only MPs sacked, according to the lawsuit.

There are three other federal lawsuits from four employees accusing the first-term sheriff of discrimination and retaliation.

A sixth former employee and now sheriff candidate is also concerned about the sheriff’s treatment of employees, The N&O previously reported.

The most recent concern comes from former employee Cedric Herring, who says he told Baker he was running for sheriff on Feb. 8. Baker responded by cutting Herring’s last days on the job short, firing his son two days later, and then his future daughter. -law, according to Herring.

In January 2022, former detention officer Latreka Jones claims she was fired in retaliation for taking family medical leave to care for her disabled son and mother, and stayed home for most of January 2021 after one son, and then another, tested positive for COVID-19. .

Vicki Britt, a former chief deputy sheriff who is white, accuses Baker, who is black, in a 2021 discrimination lawsuit of excluding her from honors and usual retirement shifts during her last week on the job .

News & Observer writer Josh Shaffer contributed to this story.

This story was originally published April 5, 2022 9:06 p.m.

Aaron Sánchez-Guerra is a breaking news reporter for The News & Observer and previously covered business and real estate for the paper. His experience includes reporting for WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a freelance journalist in Raleigh and Charlotte covering Latin American communities. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, a native Spanish speaker, and was born in Mexico. You can follow his work on Twitter at @aaronsguerra.

About the author