STATESVILLE — Three former Ashe County Detention Center jailers have submitted an amended complaint to the Western N.C. District Court in their civil action lawsuit against former sheriff Terry Buchanan and other former sheriffs’ office employees, after Buchanan and others filed motions to drop the original complaint.
In this amended complaint, former Ashe County Sheriffs’ Office deputy Marc Kitts has been dropped from the accusations, and former jailer Katie Richards’ 4-year-old daughter is no longer listed as a plaintiff alongside her mother.
The case is now between the three plaintiffs — former jailers Michelle Sanchez, Casey Caudill and Katie Richards — and the following parties, listed as defendants: Terry Buchanan, former sheriff; James Hartley, current sheriff; Richard Clayton, former chief deputy; Mickey Boyles and Dennis Anders, deputies; and Employers Mutual Casualty Company, the county’s insurance company.
“Plaintiffs in this case, employees of the Detention Center, spoke truth to power, and they faced unlawful consequences in the form of retaliatory firings, malicious prosecution, and a defamatory public relations smear campaign,” the amended complaint reads. “They bring this lawsuit to be made whole for their harms and losses and to hold Buchanan and others accountable for their actions.”
The jailers are seeking compensation for damages, as well as punitive fines against the ACSO on the grounds of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as “other statutory and common law for the negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, corrupt, malicious, unconstitutional, willful and wanton conduct,” the amended complaint said.
Language in the complaint was changed after the defendants filed motions to dismiss the case because of “immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous editorial commentary into (plaintiffs’) allegations against the defendants.”
According to the amended complaint, former jailer Michelle Sanchez is suing because “the County placed Michelle on ‘administrative leave’ on May 31, 2017,” before formally terminating her on Sept. 22, 2017, without any explanation.
Katie Richards’ case comes from her being simultaneously fired and arrested on 12 felony counts when she reported to work June 1, 2017, the amended complaint said.
“More than eight months later, unemployed and her life ruined, the district attorney admitted there was never evidence of any crime and dismissed all pending charges against (Richards),” the complaint said.
As for Casey Caudill, the complaint said he is suing because “in early July 2017, Casey initiated a complaint with the State Bureau of Investigation against the Sheriff’s Department, related to the dangerous environment at the Detention Center. (Caudill) was subjected to a hostile work environment, and he was constructively discharged on July 21, 2017.”
Buchanan is being sued both in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as former sheriff of Ashe County, according to the complaint, whereas Hartley is only listed in his official capacity as the current sheriff, and all claims against Hartley will extend to sheriff-elect Phil Howell once he is sworn into office Dec. 3.
Like Buchanan, former chief deputy Clayton is also being sued in his official and individual capacity, as well as former deputies Anders and Boyles.
“I don’t know anything about this lawsuit other than what I’ve read in the newspaper,” Hartley said.
Answers to this first amended complaint are due by Jan. 15, 2019, according to court documents. The amended complaint is available to read in its entirety at www.ashepostandtimes.com.
Ashe Post & Times will provide updates on this case as they become available.