LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely has fired a veteran investigator who's currently suing the sheriff's office in federal court, WHNT News 19 has learned.
Leslie Ramsey filed a federal lawsuit in January, alleging she was sexually assaulted by the office’s now-chief deputy and improperly demoted and disciplined for complaining about the incident.
A law firm representing Ramsey in that suit confirmed the firing Wednesday. It's not clear why Ramsey was fired, but the law firm representing her told us indicted Sheriff Mike Blakely fired her on Tuesday.
"We believe this action was unlawful, and Ms. Ramsey will appeal the decision," said attorney Phil DeFatta.
The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in September 2020.
Blakely is currently facing 13 criminal charges related to alleged theft of sheriff's office funds and other ethics violations. He was indicted in August after an investigation led by the Alabama Attorney General's Office, but has remained in office while the charges against him are pending.
The lawsuit filed by the veteran investigator alleges a number of incidents involving lost evidence, a stolen police van and other misadventures by male employees of the Sheriff’s Office, who were not disciplined.
WHNT News 19 has reached out to the Limestone County Sheriff's office about the firing, but they have not yet responded to a request for comment.
The lawsuit claims Chief Deputy Fred Sloss sexually assaulted Ramsey during a social occasion at his house in January 2017. The lawsuit alleges the encounter happened when she and her boyfriend visited Sloss’s house. It says it happened while she was outside smoking a cigarette.
“While Plaintiff and Sloss were alone in his driveway, Sloss swiped his hand several times between Plaintiff’s legs, across her chest and crotch, and along the outside of her clothes,” the lawsuit claims. The lawsuit also alleges that Sloss grabbed Ramsey and asked if her boyfriend told her how beautiful she was, asked her to show him her breasts and offered to promote her to captain if she gave in to his sexual advances, which she refused.
The lawsuit claims Sloss later had her followed after the Sheriff’s Office rodeo in May 2017.
The lawsuit then alleges Sheriff Blakely called the investigator into his office and called her a “bad apple,” told her she needed “to see a psychiatrist,” that he could “do any God damn thing he wanted,” and threatened her with demotion and termination.
The lawsuit says the plaintiff’s father called Blakely the same day, May 22, 2017, and reported the alleged assault by Sloss, mentioning her boyfriend was also present. The lawsuit claims Blakely then called the boyfriend, who claims he and the sheriff spoke about the incident for about 40 minutes.
The lawsuit claims Blakely refused to speak to the plaintiff after the incident and he did not discipline Sloss.
Ramsey filed a formal complaint to the sheriff about the alleged sexual assault on May 25, 2017, and subsequently received a written response by her new supervisor that the sheriff was justified in threatening her with termination, the lawsuit claims.
The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement after the lawsuit was filed.
“Sheriff Blakely, Chief Sloss, and the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office have always been proactive in their commitment to treating everyone, including our employees, with equal respect and dignity in every way possible. While we are unable to provide a detailed response at this time on the advice of counsel, we want to assure the people of Limestone County that our commitment to equality and providing the best workplace environment possible for everyone remains steadfast.”
The lawsuit later describes a series of demotions the plaintiff suffered, including being reduced from captain to road patrol and then from first shift to third shift, and several instances where she was passed over for leadership positions that were given to less experienced sheriff’s office employees.
Ramsey filed a formal grievance with the Limestone County Commission in June 2017 regarding the alleged sexual assault, demotion and other harassment, the lawsuit says, but the commission never issued a ruling.
The lawsuit says she filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November 2017 and was reinstated to her investigator position in February 2018.