In June, Charvette Williams, who served as a corrections officer for the jail, filed a lawsuit against the county board, the sheriff and supervisors for discrimination in the workplace. Williams alleges that she was “sexually harassed and subjected to gender and racial discrimination by her employers at the Dakota County Jail.” She has also accused the department of unfair hiring practices, claiming that less experienced white men were employed at higher wages.
Last week, in the U.S. District Court in Omaha, another female employee (also a corrections officer) filed suit against the Dakota County Sheriff and male supervisors, alleging they “pressured female employees into sexual relationships and those who refused their advances were treated as outcasts.” Her name is Toni Duncan, and she referred to her previous job’s atmosphere (that she left in 2007) as a “cesspool” in which superiors misused their power for their own sexual gratification.
Dakota County would do well to study up on other counties around the country that have faced similar issues with public servants abusing power. Just look at what has happened in Arizona’s Maricopa County when Sheriff Arpaio’s abuse went unchecked and often times was encouraged by extremists within the community. Sheriff Joe Arpaio was the subject of 2,150 lawsuits and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts between 2004 and 2007.
In late July of this year the sheriff’s office was sued yet again for detainee mistreatment and death in its prisons. One of the detainees, David McClurg, developed gangrene a month and a half after being detained. He had not been convicted of any crime. McClurg was diagnosed with diabetes, and was kept in overpopulated housing when he began experiencing symptoms of his diabetes. Before his death, David had to have toes and part of his leg amputated. Not only was McClurg robbed of his life, he also endured severe suffering unnecessarily.
The problems in Maricopa County inevitably spilled over from prisons into surrounding communities as sheriff’s deputies routinely target Latino neighborhoods through racial profiling and immigration sweeps.
Like Phoenix, it appears Nebraska’s problems don’t end in Dakota County. 75 miles South in the town of Fremont, Nebraska, residents are struggling with racial discrimination in their community as well.
And the attorney at the heart of the matter isn’t even a Nebraskan. Kris Kobach, a slick attorney who is paid by DC anti-immigrant groups, Immigration Reform Law Institute and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has been working with a small group of residents to pass an ordinance that would make it a crime to harbor, aid or abet undocumented immigrants. Considering most of Fremont’s immigrants come from Central and South America or Mexico, critics of the ordinance rightly point out that this would primarily discriminate against the community’s Latinos.
In an unsurprising twist, Kobach is also a supporter of Sheriff Joe in Arizona, even testifying before Congress in defense of his racist activities. FAIR itself has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its ties to white nationalist groups.
Local governments, including sheriffs and law enforcement officials are in desperate need of a wake up call. The divisions pulsing through our communities need to be confronted immediately and unequivocally. Discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, or immigration status, is unacceptable in today’s America.