by Keith Barber

Forsyth election workers file lawsuit

Three former Forsyth County Board of Elections employees have filed a lawsuit against Elections Director Rob Coffman, Forsyth County and the Forsyth County Board of Elections. In the lawsuit filed Oct. 13 in Forsyth County Superior Court, Pamela Johnson, Terry J. Cox and Deena Head make a number of claims against Coffman and the Board of Elections. The lawsuit alleges that Coffman has engaged in, encouraged and condoned willful violations of state and federal elections laws since his hiring by the board of elections in 2006. In the lawsuit, Johnson, Cox and Head also claim that Coffman created a hostile working environment in the board of elections office by continually harassing and verbally abusing elections workers.

The lawsuit alleges negligence by the board of elections in its retention of Coffman as elec tions director considering the fact Coffman was a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in Michigan before he joined the Forsyth County Board of Elections in 2006. Therefore, the board “failed to exercise reasonable care” when it hired Coffman, the lawsuit states.

Johnson, Cox and Head are seeking $50,000 in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages to be determined by a jury.

The lawsuit contains a lengthy list of incidents where Coffman allegedly made inappropriate and derogatory comments toward co-workers and in one instance, referred to Head, a seasonal elections employee, as “the local crack ho” who was “on loan to us from the jail” in front of other people in the office.

The board of election determined earlier this year after holding public hearings that there was no credible evidence of intentional violations of election laws by the office.