COLUMBIA, SC — A former high-ranking Columbia police officer fired in the wake of last years botched search for a missing lobbyist has sued Chief Randy Scott, the police department and the city, alleging discrimination.
Isa Greene, former deputy police chief of administration, filed suit after exhausting her appeals with the city for reinstatement, her lawsuit says. The case is being heard in federal court.
In her 11-page lawsuit, Greene a 33-year Columbia police veteran who made $86,879 when she was fired in March 2012 alleges that she was paid less than males holding equal rank and that she was made a scapegoat for the botched Sponseller investigation. In her suit, she blames other officers still with the department for mishandling the search.
In a response to Greenes lawsuit, Scott, the city and the police department denied all of Greenes allegations. The response, filed by attorney Allen Nickles III, asks that the lawsuit be dismissed.
In the search for hospitality lobbyist Tom Sponseller, the Columbia Police Department spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of officer hours searching for the missing lobbyist. He had been missing for 10 days when his body was found in his downtown office buildings underground garage, with an apparent suicide note and empty Glock box found in his office desk.
City police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said Monday that Scott would not comment because the lawsuit is pending.
In her lawsuit, Greene says she was an exceptional officer and received satisfactory performance reviews.
For years before Scott was named police chief in January 2011, Greenes lawsuit alleges, the Columbia police department had allowed a hostile work environment to exist based upon unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal and physical conduct of a lewd sexual nature and sexual favoritism that is so severe and pervasive as to render the working conditions in the CPD psychologically intolerable for female officers.
Female officers who went along with this hostile working environment and entered into relations with male officers were given preferential treatment, Greenes suit alleges.
For example, a married male corporal impregnated a female recruit and then continued to train and supervise the recruit, the suit alleges.
In another example, Scott overrode Greenes rejection of a female employee who lacked qualifications because he was having a relationship with the female employee, Greenes suit alleges. Male officers also were paid more than female officers at the same rank and qualifications, the suit states.
Male police officers traditionally received mild discipline when they mishandled investigations, Greenes suit alleges.
For example, two male officers who failed to fully investigate the 2011 slaying of former University of South Carolina professor Jennifer Wilson werent disciplined, Greenes suit alleges. Those officers were called to Wilsons home around the time she was being killed in her Shandon home but left after no one answered the door and they did not hear noise inside.
In her suit, Greene says she made numerous complaints to Scott and Assistant Chief Leslie Wiser about conditions in the department.
Although Scott purportedly fired her for bungling the Sponseller investigation, Greenes suit says, she was actually on vacation when Sponseller went missing and the investigation started. It was Wiser who actually directed the Sponseller probe, her suit says.
On March 1, 2012, a day after Sponsellers body was found, Scott fired Greene ostensibly for her role in the Sponseller case, the lawsuit says.
Last summer, a city grievance panel upheld Greenes firing.
Greenes lawyer in the case is Glenn Walters of Orangeburg. Any trial is at least months away.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.