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New Trial Against Sheriff’s Office Possible Lawyer: New Witnesses Found In Sex Discrimination Suit

The attorney for three women who lost a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the Nez Perce County sheriff’s office hopes the discovery of some new witnesses leads to a new trial.

A jury verdict last month cleared Sheriff Ron Koeper and his officers of any misconduct.

But attorney Linda Pall says after the verdict, several people came forward “expressing outrage” over some defense testimony.

Pall, who has filed a request for a new trial, represents Kathie L. Smith, Jannett M. Abbott and Cathy P. Rigney. They claimed the environment at the sheriff’s office was hostile and abusive toward women.

They asked $1 million damages, including back pay, lost future wages and benefits.

A 12-person jury listened to 2 weeks of testimony, then returned a verdict in less than two hours. The jury foreman indicated afterward the decision was clearcut.

In an affidavit filed with the bid for a new trial, Kevin McKeirnan disputed defense testimony from former dispatcher Kathy Jones. He said he was shocked that she testified she had no problems on the job and enjoyed working for the sheriff when he remembers that she often came to the fire department in tears or upset about her working conditions. McKeirnan worked with Jones’ husband at the fire department between 1988 and 1990.

Pall won’t say specifically who contacted her after the verdict was announced. “I think, in general terms, people were shocked at the jury’s decision,” she said.

She said she felt she had a strong case. But she didn’t want to speculate why the jury reached the verdict it did.

Still pending is 4th District Judge George Carey’s decision on the women’s claim for damages under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

If the judge rules the sheriff’s office intentionally engaged in unlawful employment practices, he can order the women compensated for lost wages.

Pall said she expects a decision from Carey by July.