Discrimination alleged in state Senate
by Matt Shinall
Sep 29, 2011 | 1929 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Allegations of discrimination have arisen in the Georgia Senate after the dismissal of an employee led to an $80,000 settlement.

Named in connection with the secretary were two senators with whom she worked, including State Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, of the 53rd district and State Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, of the 3rd district.

Both senators deny any connection with or knowledge of the alleged discrimination. In a statement released Wednesday, Loudermilk named the employee as Ethel Blackmon.

"Though Ms. Blackmon did work in my senate office for a short time, I have never discriminated against her or anyone else, and this issue has never been raised to me. The media has also reported an alleged monetary settlement made to her, which they claim had something to do with me. I have never been consulted about a settlement, nor did I know anything about one before hearing of media reports [Tuesday]," Loudermilk said.

Ligon, sharing office space and personnel with Loudermilk, echoed the same concern over recent allegations. Ligon too knew only of the settlement, reached by the Senate's Administrative Affairs Committee, after the proceedings were concluded.

"There are allegations of discrimination made by a former employee and she worked for us for a very short period of time. We did not discriminate against her or anyone else," Ligon said. "I learned after the fact, after she had been dismissed, that there was a settlement but we weren't a part of that. I don't know what went into that and don't really know the circumstances of what went on there."

In addition to claiming no knowledge of discrimination occurring at any time during her employment, neither senator knew the circumstances of Blackmon's dismissal. Loudermilk noted that shortly after the General Assembly's special session began, he was contacted by the human resource department notifying him that he would be getting a new secretary. Beyond that, Loudermilk and Ligon knew nothing of her dismissal.

"I didn't dismiss her and the senator I share space with didn't dismiss her either -- I don't even think we have the authority," Ligon said. "We just don't have access to all that information."

Democratic senators have cried foul over the proceedings and decry the Administrative Affairs Committee for its secrecy in personnel issues. The Democratic Party of Georgia released a statement Wednesday urging Attorney General Sam Olens to release details of the settlement.

Ligon, however, compares the situation to those in private industry.

"I think you have to balance the privacy rights of the employee as well. Most employers don't discuss personnel matters and I think you have to keep that in mind and I think you have to respect that," he said.