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Police

Yellow Springs police officer Naomi Penrod charges discrimination

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Yellow Springs Police Sergeant Naomi Penrod has filed a charge of employment discrimination against the Village of Yellow Springs.

The charge was filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, or OCRC, on February 10, according to Mary Terocy, the department’s director of public affairs, in an interview this week. However, Terocy said that because an investigation has begun, she isn’t able to comment on the specifics of the case.

This week Village Manager Patti Bates also declined to comment on the case, saying that she is not allowed to do so. Penrod did not return a phone call seeking comments. She continues to work at the department.

The OCRC seeks to protect people from discrimination based on race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin and disability. However, according to Terocy, most workplace OCRC cases involve retaliation, in which the employee sees an act of discrimination against oneself or someone else that appears to be retribution for a previous act.

The discrimination charge against the Village of Yellow Springs comes seven months after Penrod was found not guilty of charges of assault, interference with civil rights and disorderly conduct following a November 2014 incident. In that incident, in which Penrod and two other Yellow Springs officers responded to a call to the home of villager Athena Fannin, Penrod forcefully removed Fannin’s video camera while Fannin was attempting to film their interaction. Fannin, who is disabled, said that Penrod had inflicted physical harm while taking the camera away.

However, the Greene County Court of Common Pleas jury in July found Penrod not guilty of all charges after her attorney, Adrian King, asserted that the Yellow Springs Police Department lacked adequate training, so that Penrod wasn’t aware that citizens had a right to film interactions with police. During the trial, Police Chief Dave Hale, who at the time of the incident was interim chief, testified that he had instructed all officers regarding citizens’ rights to videotape interactions with police.

During the eight months between the November 2014 incident and the jury trial in July, Penrod was on paid leave from the department. She returned to her position as daytime sergeant shortly after the trial’s conclusion.

Penrod joined the Yellow Springs department in 2008 and was promoted to sergeant in 2014. In 2011 she was recognized by the Greene County Children’s Services as Child Advocate of the Year for her work with children.

According to spokesperson Terocy, the OCRC has a year to complete its case. The average case takes about 10 months, she said, although the process can be far shorter if the investigator finds no merit to the charge of discrimination.

After a charge is filed with the OCRC, the complainant provides the agency with an affadavit of the charge, after which the investigator alerts the respondent to the charge. At this point, both parties are offered the option of mediation. According to Bates, the Village has been notified of the charge and has also stated it is open to mediation. Both parties need to agree to mediation. If mediation is pursued, the process can result in a financial settlement or a non-financial settlement, Terocy said.

If mediation is declined, the investigator pursues the investigation, and the case may end up going to an administrative hearing process, presided over by an administrative law judge, for a final decision. The resolution of the case at this point will almost certainly involve a financial settlement, according to Terocy.

All documents in the case become public after the case is resolved, she said.

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Yellow Springs police officer Naomi Penrod charges discrimination

by Diane Chiddister