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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Former dispatcher files suit

Friday, January 11, 2002

Defendants include New Madrid County, sheriff, commissioner

NEW MADRID - A former dispatcher for the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department and Ambulance Service has filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Gary Burger, a St. Louis attorney with the firm Cantor and Burger, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dana Ramsey in U.S. District Court on Dec. 21. New Madrid County and Sheriff Terry Stevens and Second District Commissioner Sam Pikey, who are named individually as defendants, were notified of the lawsuit earlier this month.

New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney H. Riley Bock said the county denies all the allegations made by Ramsey and will defend itself against the lawsuit. "We won't answer any the specifics in the media," he continued. "It is a court matter and will be handled in the court."

Ramsey's attorney noted the case is just now in its beginning stages and has requested at least six months for investigative work before going to trial. Burger said he is not discussing the case: "The allegations are explained in our petition."

Employed by the sheriff's department in August 1997, Ramsey was diagnosed with cancer in May 1998, according to court documents. Although she had surgery, the cancer returned in November 1998 and she again had surgery.

Court documents noted in early 2000, Ramsey became pregnant by her then fiancee Thomas Wigfall, whom she married in April 2001. Wigfall, a deputy with the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department, is African-American, the petition stated.

Between February and July 2000, Ramsey was able to work only intermittently by doctors' orders. "At the end of July 2000, Dana Ramsey was taken off work by her medical doctors for complete bed rest for the safety of herself and her child," her lawyer stated.

Ramsey had an additional surgery for removal of cancerous tumor and gave birth to her child in September 2000. At this time she began maternity leave.

According to Ramsey's lawyer, her then employer, Sheriff Gary Hill, instructed her to not go on disability. Instead Hill instructed the sheriff's department to pay her full salary for the time she was off and Ramsey was paid through the end of 2000.

While on maternity leave, Ramsey stated she heard numerous derogatory remarks concerning her relationship with Wigfall. "During the year 2000, Defendant Pikey requested that Sheriff Gary Hill terminate Dana Ramsey because of her interracial relationship and the child from that relationship," her attorney alleged in his complaint. Also he contends Pikey sought to have Wigfall fired.

According to the court document, when Stevens took office as sheriff he terminated Ramsey's employment on Jan. 4, 2001.

Ramsey was released by doctors to return to work on Jan. 5, 2001. Wigfall continues to be employed by the sheriff's department.

Her attorney is seeking compensatory damages for all lost wages and benefits since her termination along with reinstatement to her former job or as an alternative to pay compensatory damages for all future wages. Also she is seeking payment for "emotional distress and mental anguish" and punitive damages along with attorney fees and court costs.

Representing the county and its insurance company in the case will be Keith Henson, a St. Louis attorney.