Rist: ‘I had no choice’ but to sue

Published 10:06 am Friday, June 4, 2010

The former Ironton police sergeant who filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city, police department, mayor and police chief said she had no choice but to sue.

Ironton City Councilwoman Beth Rist filed a lawsuit June 1 alleging that the she was unlawfully terminated in 2008 because of her gender and in retaliation for her documented opposition to what she alleges was discriminatory treatment.

“They backed me into a corner where I had no choice,” Rist wrote in an email to The Tribune. “I have lost everything I have ever worked for, including the persistent slander and defamation on the Internet and news of my name and reputation.

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“This is the reason for the lawsuit. I refuse to be bullied by the powers that be. We are demanding a jury trial so my story can be told correctly and truthfully once and for all.”

Rist also wrote that the city is wasting money in litigation against her when her job paid about $40,000 per year.

Rist said she plans to run for mayor during the next election.

“For too long our city government has failed in providing the opportunities we need to move forward,” Rist wrote. “I stand for equality for every citizen, black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight. I encourage the citizens of Ironton to attend council meetings and voice their opinion.”

“It will not be cast aside, as before. I also encourage anyone working anywhere to research their civil rights, and stand strong when they have been violated.

As one vote on city council, I cannot make much of an impact. As Mayor, I can make change happen.”

Lawrence County Board of Elections Director Cathy Overbeck said Rist has picked up the paperwork to file for candidacy, but that she has not filed.

Rist was fired from the department for falsifying a traffic ticket. She was charged with a felony but later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to two years probation.

The lawsuit alleges that in similar situations where male officers have committed similar violations, those officers were not terminated.

Rist filed a grievance protesting her termination in which an arbitrator determined that she had been terminated without cause.

The arbitrator also ordered that she be reinstated to her position as police officer.

Following an appeal of the arbitrator’s decision, Rist’s termination was reinstated, although she and her attorneys contend that the arbitrator’s ruling should have been final, per the guidelines of the city’s police union contract.

The lawsuit alleges that both the termination and the city’s failure to reinstate Rist were motivated by a desire to discriminate against her for protesting what she believed was a hostile environment in the police department.

In 2001, Rist, who was the city’s first female officer in 1996, successfully sued the city in a suit that alleged sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.