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Rist suit moves forward to trial

Could go before judge next month

A motion by the city of Ironton to end the civil rights lawsuit filed against it by former city police oficer Beth Rist has been overruled as the case proceeds to a Nov. 14 trial date.

On Oct. 4, U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett denied the city’s claim that there is not enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Rist, an officer with the IPD for more than 12 years, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on June 2010 claiming she was fired from the force because of her gender and in retaliation for her documented opposition to what she has alleged was discriminatory treatment.

Rist became the department’s first female officer when she was hired in 1996.

Five years later she filed a suit against the city on the grounds of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. That suit was settled out of court.

In 2008, Rist, who is now a city councilwoman, was fired after she admitted she had falsified information on a traffic ticket, writing it to someone other than the actual driver of the car.

She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received a sentence of two years probation for the crime. Rist fought her dismissal by filing a union grievance.

An arbitrator sided with Rist saying she was fired without cause and ordered she be reinstated to the force.

However, the city of Ironton went to Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to appeal that decision. The court ruled Rist’s termination should be reinstated. The Fourth District Court of Appeals sided with the lower court.

In December 2010, Rist appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which decided not to hear the case.

As that case was pending in the courts, Rist filed the civil rights suit.

In its motion the city asked for a summary judgment (dismissal) arguing “there are no genuine issues of material fact in this case and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” the order states. “The moving party (the city) has the burden of showing an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case.”

The city had asked for the judgment based on what it said were the plaintiff’s retaliation and her gender-discrimination claims. The judge granted the city’s motion as far as retaliation because the plaintiff “ did not pursue the retaliation claims during discovery and does not oppose their dismissal,” the order states.

However, the city’s motion on the discrimination claims was denied.

“These claims survive Defendants’ motion for summary judgment,” Barrett ruled.

The ruling is not a blow to the city’s case, Mayor Rich Blankenship said.

“This is just part of the procedure that attorneys file,” he said. “We are very confident in our case.”

Rist referred comments to her Cincinnati attorney Marc Mezibov.

“We were pleased at the decision and look forward at last to a fair hearing,” he said.

A status conference is set for Thursday.

“The judge probably will want to know two things — can the matter be resolved and two are the parties ready for trial,” Mezibov said.

The only thing stopping a trial would be a settlement, he said.

“I have no reason to believe that will happen,” Mezibov said. “Anything is possible.”

Click here to read the entire summary judgement.