Three former Kennebec County jail officers are suing their former employer, claiming they were victimized unlawfully and terminated because of their gender, sexual orientation, religion and physical disability.

The lawsuit alleging violations of state and federal laws was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Bangor by attorney Jackie T. DiGiacomo, on behalf of Deborah Huard and Diedre DiGiacomo, both of Winslow; and Cheri A. Caudill, of Augusta.

“We’re very concerned about what’s happening at the jail,” Jackie DiGiacomo said on Tuesday. “There’s a network of people that have promoted themselves into power and are committing serious offenses against corrections officers and inmates alike. There’s a lot going on in that jail that people need to be aware of. We’re hoping with some legal justice that people will realize what’s going on there.”

The three women seek compensatory and punitive damages as well as an order against six defendants, including Sheriff Ryan Reardon and Capt. Marsha Alexander, saying they acted in concert “in an attempt to ‘rid the jail of lesbian’ personnel.”

The others named as defendants in the lawsuit are the office and the jail itself, the corrections division, and officers Lt. Calista Campbell, Staff Sgt. Laura Briggs, Jessica Quinn and Sgt. Dennis Cyr. Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick and Terry York, Kennebec County assistant administrator and human resource manager, also are named as defendants.

Peter Marchesi, the attorney representing the defendants, has yet to file a response to the complaint in court.

However, on Tuesday via email, Marchesi said the county was aware of the lawsuit and its allegations.

“In this case the allegations are entirely false, plain and simple. Kennebec County has policies prohibiting illegal discrimination and has zero tolerance for any form of illegal discrimination,” he wrote. “The allegations in this case have been investigated and there is not a shred of evidence to support any of them. While the county prefers not to waste valuable taxpayer resources defending frivolous lawsuits, it cannot and will not sit idly by in the face of false and entirely meritless accusations. The county intends to vigorously defend the case and has every confidence that it will be fully vindicated.”

The complaint says defendants violated the Maine Human Rights Act and a number of federal statutes, including the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the Hobbs Act, which is used in connection with public corruption.

“In the present case higher ranking officials of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office … Corrections Division (aka) Kennebec County Correctional Facility are in fact routinely discriminating against female corrections officers and lesbian corrections officers,” the complaint states.

It also says those responsible for investigating allegations of hazing and similar reports failed to do investigations and blamed the victims.

Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin said the county commissioners received notice of the complaint and that it originally had begun at the Maine Human Rights Commission.

The federal complaint accused defendants of racketeering, criminal conspiracy, theft by extortion, bribery, improper influence, purchase of public office, obstructing government administration, official oppression and causing mental anguish and emotional distress.

Huard had worked for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer for 25 years from 1989 until June 2015, including 18 years as a staff sergeant.

The lawsuit says she was demoted in October 2012 so Campbell could become staff sergeant. It also says Huard was forced to work overtime despite a physical disability as a result of foot surgeries and doctors’ notes restricting her from working extra hours.

It also says Huard, the union shop steward, was subject to unlawful retaliation in violation of the Maine Whistleblowers Protection Act when she reported unsafe working conditions.

The complaint says DiGiacomo, who was a corrections officer at the jail from November 2013 to May 2015, was subject to sexual harassment, anti-Semitic comments because she is Jewish, and other discriminatory remarks. It also says she unfairly was denied a promotion and was injured by pranks of other officers and threatened by inmates who were told she ratted on fellow officers.

It describes several pranks, including one in which a diaper soiled with a chocolate bar was put on an elevator to haze an officer for defecating in his pants when he was ill and toothpaste being put on a rag to simulate semen.

The complaint says Caudill, who was a clerical specialist and corrections officer from March 2013 to September 2014, was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment because of her sexual orientation and that she was harassed with false allegations of misconduct.

The complaint says Huard, who worked for the county for more than 25 years, was forced into premature retirement, that Diedre DiGiacomo was subject to constructive termination and that Caudill was wrongfully terminated.

Attorney Jackie DiGiacomo, whose office is in Waterville, practices tax debt resolution as well as litigation. She is married to Diedre DiGiacomo, one of the three plaintiffs.

“I’ve done extensive research — about a year’s worth of research — before the complaint was filed.” Jackie DiGiacomo said Tuesday.

She said two of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit initially filed complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission, but she declined to identify them until she received the right-to-sue letters from that agency.

On Tuesday, DiGiacomo also said she intends to amend the federal lawsuit to add facts as well as to delete the Maine Department of Corrections as well as Fitzpatrick as defendants.

“I’ve made many attempts to contact attorney Marchesi,” DiGiacomo said. “He’s not responded to me at all.”

She said Huard remains retired, Caudill is employed in a different field and Deidre DiGiacomo is not working because she is still recovering from the stress she experienced while working at the jail.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.