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Civil rights complaint dismissed

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has dismissed a civil rights complaint filed last year against the City of Ironton by a former police officer.

Beth Rist, who was fired by the city in 2008, filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in February 2009, alleging she was unfairly fired and that her termination was the result of discrimination and was also in retaliation for a lawsuit she filed against the city in 2001.

The state agency did not find in Rist’s favor and forwarded the matter to the federal agency.

In a form letter dated March 3, U.S. EEOC Investigator James P. McKenzie determined the “EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes. This does not certify the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”

Rist said the EEOC decision will have no bearing on whether she files a federal lawsuit against the city.

“They’re (the EEOC) going strictly by the criminal part of it,” Rist said.

Mayor Rich Blankenship said he thinks the EEOC ruling exonerates his and the city’s position in the Rist matter and pointed out the EEOC is the third entity (the civil rights commission and Visiting Judge Fred Crow being the other two) that has sided with the city in its termination of Rist.

“I feel like we have done the right thing, followed proper procedure. I believe we have done what was the right thing to do. It is what it is. They agreed with us,” Blankenship said.

Rist was fired from her job after she admitted she wrote a traffic ticket to someone other than the actual driver. She was indicted on charges stemming from the incident, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsification and was put on probation for it.

Rist filed a grievance over her termination shortly after she was fired and arbitrator Harry Graham ruled in her favor.

Graham ordered the city to reinstate her as an officer. She also filed the civil rights complaint, alleging she was the victim of a personal vendetta. The city later filed a motion in common pleas court, asking a judge to overturn Graham’s ruling.

Late last year, Rist asked Crow to end her probation ahead of schedule in order for her to return to work as a police officer.

Last month, Crow ruled in favor of the city and overturned the arbitrator’s decision. Crow also opted not to terminate Rist’s probation.

Rist sued the city in 2001, alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment. The lawsuit was settled out of court.