A federal lawsuit alleges that a female Southampton Town police sergeant has endured two decades of gender discrimination on the force, even after filing state and federal charges and bringing her complaints to the town supervisor three times.
Susan Ralph, who joined the department in 1994 as a part-time officer before working with the New York Police Department from 1996 to 1999, detailed a pattern of gender discrimination, sexual overtures and retaliation on the East End's largest police force that her attorney said is ongoing.
In the suit, Ralph alleges her 2012 testimony in probes the Suffolk County police and district attorney's office were leading into misconduct on the force set off a campaign of retaliation by her fellow officers and superiors, who stripped her of several assignments, her police vehicle and her office.
"She's been ostracized from the department," said Matthew Weinick, Ralph's Melville-based attorney. "That continues every day she's at work."
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 13 in Central Islip, is the second Southampton has faced in less than a year alleging gender discrimination in the police force of about 100 officers, eight of whom are women. Ralph's charges echo those made in an April lawsuit by Lisa Costa, the department's only other female sergeant.
Ralph is seeking unspecified damages and other costs, and requests a jury trial, according to the suit.
Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato declined to comment Wednesday and said the case would be handled by an outside law firm. Police Chief Robert Pearce, named with the town as a defendant, did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.
The suit alleges that Ralph's mistreatment began the year she started in the "male-dominated work environment." Female officers were told they couldn't fire their weapons, were barred from preferred assignments and did not advance beyond sergeant, the suit says.
Ralph describes instances in which her bosses sent sexually explicit emails, inquired about her personal relationships and made sexual advances. According to the lawsuit, former Chief James Overton tried on two occasions to kiss her.
Overton, who retired in 2011, did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment. Costa made similar accusations against him in her lawsuit.
Ralph's situation worsened in 2012, the suit says, after then-Chief William Wilson ordered her to testify in investigations by the Suffolk County Police Department and Suffolk County district attorney's office into alleged misconduct by Lt. James Kiernan, involving his supervision of an officer who was addicted to prescription painkillers.
Kiernan, who was suspended in 2012 and pleaded guilty to four charges in the case, told other officers that "Ralph was going to pay for her speaking out against him," according to the lawsuit.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Kiernan -- who is back on the force -- said he was unaware of the suit and declined to comment.
In the months following Ralph's testimony, the suit alleges, she was stripped of duties, denied overtime, excluded from departmental meetings and removed from a DWI task force.
The retaliation grew more intense in 2013, when Pearce and Ralph's fellow sergeants stopped talking to Ralph after she and Costa filed gender-discrimination complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the suit.
Ralph said in the suit that she reported the threats and retaliation to Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst three times between 2012 and 2014. The supervisor told Ralph she would be "protected," that it was "time for a woman to make lieutenant," and that Throne-Holst believed she could muster the town board's support for Ralph's advancement, the lawsuit alleges.
However, the promotion never happened and the retaliation continued, according to the suit. Throne-Holst was not in her office Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.