Local News

March 28, 2013

Former Murray magistrate workers sue

Three former Murray County Magistrate Court employees filed a lawsuit in federal court in Rome on Wednesday, claiming they were sexually harassed by then-chief magistrate Bryant Cochran while county officials negligently failed to protect their rights.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress, lost income, attorneys fees and other costs. It names Cochran and Murray County government as defendants.

Ben Mathis, an Atlanta-based attorney for the county, said accusations that county officials were negligent and that county policy didn’t afford employees a way to file a complaint with someone other than the supervisor who was allegedly harassing them aren’t true.

“We don’t believe there’s any liability on the part of the county,” Mathis said. “There seems to be a great deal of dispute about what occurred in that office with the former judge. He has a view, and the ladies have a view, but at least with respect to the county, there were avenues that they could have used if they really believed there was a problem.”

The former employees — Yesenia Galvan, Sonya Petty and Virginia Rector — allege in the lawsuit that Cochran used “intimidation tactics” to threaten them if they supported any other candidate during his bid for re-election, and they claim he made explicit and lewd comments to and around them in the office. The lawsuit claims Cochran touched Rector in a sexual manner and suggested they have sex and that the women believed they had no one to formally complain to without also involving Cochran.

Cochran’s attorney, Page A. Pate, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. In previous interviews, Pate has said allegations of the women working in a “sexually-charged work environment” are untrue.

Cochran resigned, citing an unrelated reason, after a woman whose case he was set to hear accused him of sexual misconduct, a charge he has denied. The case against him snowballed to include ethical or criminal inquiries from the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Two Murray County Sheriff’s Office employees resigned amid allegations they lied during an investigation. One, Michael Henderson, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of obstructing a pending civil rights investigation by tampering with a witness while he was a captain at the sheriff’s office. He’s scheduled for sentencing on May 31 and could get up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The other, former deputy Josh Greeson, is scheduled for trial in federal court in Rome on April 15.

McCracken Poston, an attorney for the former magistrate court employees, said the lack of a sound sexual harassment policy is something that has haunted Murray County.

But Mathis said this isn’t the same as when former county employee Charlene Miles sued on claims that then-sole commissioner David Ridley sexually harassed her. That case was eventually settled out of court.

“(The former magistrate workers) could have gone to the county attorney, they could have gone to a number of people to try to stop this if they were as bothered as they claim to be,” Mathis said. “In my estimation, this kind of thing is what’s wrong with how people use the judicial system.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Kiwanis Club3.jpg Kiwanians get a lesson in money and banking

    Money.
    It makes it easier for us to buy and sell goods and services. It is the measure by which we judge the relative value of those goods and services, and it allows us to “store value,” by placing it away and using it when we need it.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff: Inmates don’t ask to vote

    In his 21 years of service, Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said inmates have never asked for the opportunity to vote.

    July 28, 2014

  • Little library 1 mlh.jpg Little Libraries, big goal

    Whitfield County just received a new library.
    And better yet, 26 more are on the way to the region.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Picture 3.jpg Rock solid

    A great number of things have come and gone since 1974.
    One that hasn’t: a small Dalton school founded by parents wanting a unique learning environment for their children.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vann House Day '14 6 mlh.jpg History comes alive at Vann House

    SPRING PLACE — In the early 1800s, the 1,000-acre plantation belonging to Cherokee Indian leader James Vann was a bustling place.

    July 26, 2014 5 Photos

  • Local officials agree with Deal

    Regarding news last week that approximately 30 unaccompanied minors from Central America, who had crossed the southern border into the United States, were sent without warning to Dalton last year and enrolled in Dalton Public Schools, Republican politicians representing portions of Murray and Whitfield Counties agree — state and local school officials deserved to know in advance, they say.

    July 26, 2014

  • Former chamber location 2 mlh.jpg Plan could cut flooding, stormwater damage in Dalton

    On a recent day, McClellan Creek flowed gently through Harlan Godfrey Civitan Park. But some park goers who live near the area say that even a mild rain can turn the creek into a torrent that eats away at their property.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Civil War anniversary: The Battle of Crow Valley, May 9-12, 1864

    The Atlanta Campaign began during the first two weeks of May 1864 in and around Dalton. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s strategy was to target two of his armies, about 80,000 men, against Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee at Dalton. Then, while Johnston’s attention was diverted by these forces, he would secretly send his third army, about 25,000 troops under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, in a flanking movement to the southwest through Snake Creek Gap. Sherman’s goal was to break Johnston’s railroad supply line some 15 miles south at Resaca and trap Johnston’s Confederates in Dalton.

    July 26, 2014

  • New church being  built mlh.jpg Church construction continues

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Avans.jpg Three arrested in arson plot to claim insurance money

    Three people have been arrested for their role in a fire at a Chatsworth home as part of an insurance scam to collect money, officials said.

    July 25, 2014 3 Photos