Queen Anne's County Roundup

CENTREVILLE — Queen Anne’s County has settled an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a former deputy, the county announced in a news release Monday, June 2. As part of the settlement, there is no finding or admission of wrongdoing by the county.

The county and its insurer, the Local Government Insurance Trust, will pay $620,000 to Kristy Lynn Murphy-Taylor and her husband — $194,188.52 for back-pay and interest, $89,220.46 for back-benefits, $74,364 for front-pay and $2,227.02 for medical expenses, as well as $260,000 toward the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and expenses.

The LGIT will contribute $350,000 toward the settlement; the county will pay the remaining $270,000.

Murphy-Taylor and her husband filed suit in August 2012 against Sheriff R.G. “Gary” Hofmann, his brother John Dennis “J.D.” Hofmann, Maj. James L. Williams of the Queen Anne's County Sheriff's Office, the State of Maryland and Queen Anne’s County.

Murphy-Taylor alleged that her employment was unlawfully terminated by Sheriff Hofmann in May 2011 — the day after his brother pleaded guilty in Cecil County Circuit Court to committing second-degree assault.

At the time of the assault, in August 2009, John Hofmann and Murphy-Taylor were returning from a court appearance in Cecil County. Murphy-Taylor told authorities she had been inappropriately touched in a sexual manner by Hofmann while in their police car.

As part of the plea arrangement, a charge of sexual offense in the fourth degree against John Hofmann was dismissed. The court struck the guilty verdict, and offered Hofmann probation before judgment. 

In her lawsuit, Murphy-Taylor alleged the existence of a hostile work environment in the sheriff’s office and that her termination was in retaliation for her having pursued criminal charges against the sheriff’s brother.

John Hofmann remained a member of the sheriff’s office for about seven months after Murphy-Taylor was informed by Sheriff Hofmann on May 13, 2011, that he considered her to be “no longer employed with the Office of the Sheriff.” Murphy-Taylor was on extended leave at the time.

John Hofmann was de-certified as a Maryland law enforcement officer by the Maryland Police Training Commission in November 2011. At that time, he left the sheriff’s office.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland by Murphy-Taylor and her husband. The federal court intervened on behalf of Murphy-Taylor in March 2013.

Although Queen Anne's County's anti-harassment policies are in full compliance with federal law, as part of the settlement, the county has agreed to revise them to allow members of the sheriff’s office to make complaints of sexual harassment directly to the county’s human resources department, according to the news release.

This proposed change in county policy is in response to an allegation made by Murphy-Taylor that the sheriff’s office policies do not allow sexual harassment complaints to be made to and/or decided by anyone other than the sheriff and his chief deputy.

Although the county is required by state law to budget for the operation of the sheriff's office, the sheriff is an independently elected state constitutional officer who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of his office. The county does not have the legal authority to dictate, directly or indirectly, how the sheriff’s office is to be run, according to the June 2 news release.

What is changed now is the presence of the United States in a lawsuit designed, in part, to re-write the sexual harassment policy currently in place at the sheriff’s office. It is anticipated that the solution crafted by the county administrator and the county commissioners, which calls for a prompt independent investigation of such complaints, will benefit all employees, including those employed by the sheriff's office, the county said.

The settlement reached by the county does not close the lawsuit; the case continues against the remaining defendants, including Sheriff Hofmann and Maj. Williams, who are represented by the Office of the Attorney General.

“Although the county decided to settle on their HR issue, a majority of the parties have never been deposed, very little discovery completed, and, to date, no deposition of the plaintiff has been done. No right or wrongdoing has been determined in the case,” Sheriff Hofmann said in a statement June 2. “While I understand the financial costs of defense could have exceeded the settlement, I am also very disappointed in some of the commissioners in settling a case based on allegations alone before any facts are determined.”

Roy Mason, attorney for Murphy-Taylor, said she was not giving interviews, and he declined to comment on the settlement.

 

In Other Headlines:

•Windswept Farm, which is located on Price Station Road near Church Hill, is the venue for an event on Saturday, June 7 that will benefit the Queen Anne's County Historical Society.

Get up close and personal with racehorses, learn about harness racing, see barrel racing demonstrations, meet the 2011 Ocean Downs Horse of the Year and, best of all, meet many of those in Queen Anne’s County who actually race horses.

"Horses, History and Heritage of Horse Racing” is open to the public. The family event includes pony rides for children.

It runs from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Pony rides begin at 4 p.m. A program honoring horse racing families begins at 5 p.m. An exhibit of some of the great racers in the county, stories of E.B. Emory and his significant contributions to the beginnings of harness racing in Maryland, and discussions of horse racing in the past will be available in one of the barns.

No one will miss the running of the Belmont Stakes, the last race of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, because a home theater will be set up for live viewing of the race.

Food and drink as served at all regional racetracks also will be available for a nominal charge. Admission for the event is $20 per person; there is no cost for children under the age of 13.

•The Kennard Alumni Association will host its annual Gospel Music Festival on Saturday, June 14 at Kennard Elementary School in Centreville. The doors open at 4 p.m., with the concert set to start at 5. The concert will feature some of the Eastern Shore’s best gospel talent in song, dance and musical performances.

The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 and older. There is no cost for children 5 and younger. Proceeds benefit the Kennard Alumni Association Scholarship Fund.

Refreshments will be sold.

Contact Clayton Washington at 443-239-2110 for information.

•Faith McCarthy, Miele McCluskey, Maya McGrory, Ryley Wright and Gavin Wright — as the Eaglets — for the second time in three years won the elementary school division of the World Series of Birding in Cape May, N.J. In one day, on May 10, they identified 133 species. They were particularly thrilled to find a Wilson’s Warbler and a Yellow Crowned Night Heron rookery.

The team of Centreville area students has been together for three years. Jim Wilson is their mentor and designated driver.

The World Series of Birding, sponsored by New Jersey Audubon Society, is North America’s premier conservation event. During its 31 years, the event has raised more than $10,000,000 for bird and nature conservation.

The Eaglets raise funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, which has been tagging monarch butterflies and studying monarch migration for 20-plus years.

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