A former Columbia police department crime analyst has filed a lawsuit against the city and former police Chief Randy Scott, claiming the city broke a promise when she was forced to resign and that she was the victim of the chief, who abused his position of authority.
Bridget Caffery, 24, is asking for an unspecified amount to compensate for actions that potentially destroyed her young career as a crime analyst, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Friday by her attorneys, Lewis Cromer and Paul Porter.
She was forced to resign in late January for an alleged ethical violation and an unauthorized recording, the lawsuit said.
Caffery was a central figure in the recent FBI and SLED investigation into an alleged “black ops” scheme involving former senior officers Ruben Santiago and David Navarro. She had two secretly recorded conversations between her bosses stored in her laptop computer.
The lawsuit continues the fallout of the investigation, including Santiago’s resignation last week. No criminal charges were filed, but a special prosecutor accused Santiago and Caffery of not being forthright with investigators. The 405-investigative report sheds light on a department where officers worked in an atmosphere of distrust and rumors.
Caffery also made news in January when it was discovered she had been arrested in December on a driving under the influence charge. During her arrest, Caffery asked the S.C. Highway Patrol officer to call Scott or Santiago, according to video footage from the trooper’s car. The officer did not call, and Caffery was booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
The arrest is, in part, a reason she filed suit.
Caffery said in the lawsuit she informed her supervisors of her Dec. 28 arrest but was not disciplined for it.
The arrest was reported in the local media Jan. 21, and Caffery claims the arrest had been leaked by Navarro at the request of Scott, according to the lawsuit.
Once again, Caffery was not disciplined or terminated.
At the time, Santiago and Sgt. James Richardson, her direct supervisor, told Caffery that “she had nothing to worry about” and that other city employees had not been fired after being arrested on more serious charges, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asserts that those assurances amounted to a promise.
Despite those assurances, the city’s leadership informed Caffery Jan. 31 that she would have to resign or be terminated.
Caffery “reasonably relied on this promise and continued working for the Defendant City,” the lawsuit said. “Such reliance was to her detriment: she was forced to resign, has been unable to find re-employment, and did not have sufficient notice to contact an attorney regarding the imminent end of her employment.”
The most salacious claims in the lawsuit center on the relationship between Caffery and Scott.
Caffery said they were in a romantic relationship between October 2011 and May 2013. Scott admitted the relationship in an August interview with the FBI.
Caffery claimed in the lawsuit that Scott was controlling and made many threatening comments.
The lawsuit claims Scott also placed a department-owned GPS tracking device on Caffery’s car sometime in late 2012 and she saw him remove it in March 2013. The lawsuit alleges that Scott wanted to track Caffery’s comings and goings and to discover whether she was seeing anybody else.
Because of those actions, Caffery said she was afraid of Scott. That fear led her to record the conversation at work between Santiago, Navarro and herself, the lawsuit said. It is against city policy to record conversations with co-workers.
Efforts to reach Scott Monday night were unsuccessful. Scott, who works at the Richland County Sheriffs’ Department, previously has told The State newspaper that it is against department policy to speak to the media. A sheriff’s department spokesman referred questions to the city saying the lawsuit involves Scott's employment with the police department.
The lawsuit claims Scott’s actions violated Caffery’s privacy, and the city is to blame because Scott was the police chief and used city property.
Caffery’s lawsuit is the fourth to be filed by current and former police department employees against the city and Scott for his actions during his nearly two-and-a-half year tenure as chief.
Efforts to reach City Manager Teresa Wilson were unsuccessful.