After rising through the ranks for 33 years, winning awards and becoming the first woman of full age in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio, Charmaine McGuffey was ousted in 2017, she said.
She said she was fired for being a lesbian and for calling attention to the use of excessive force against inmates. Her then boss Sheriff Jim Neil said she refused to agree to a demotion after an internal affairs investigation found it created a hostile work environment, court records show .
Now Ms McGuffey, 63, is set to return to office, this time as sheriff-elect after defeating Sheriff Neil in a Democratic primary in April and a Republican challenger in Tuesday’s general election.
Ms McGuffey said she was not motivated by a desire for revenge against the sheriff.
“I decided that I could do a better job than him and that I needed to be back in this office to be able to complete the job that I started, which is to bring real criminal justice reform to the system,” she said on Saturday. “No one who knows what it’s like to go through the ordeal, the odyssey that I went through, would ever do that for revenge.
Ms. McGuffey will assume control of a staff of 800 who supervise an average of 1,500 inmates in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati. During her campaign, she described herself as a progressive who would focus on “rehabilitative rather than punitive strategies” to reduce recidivism.
Sheriff Neil declined to comment through a spokesperson.
After losing in the primary, he endorsed Republican challenger Bruce Hoffbauer, former Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff and Cincinnati Police Relief Commander. Sheriff Neil called Ms McGuffey a political activist who would turn the city and county into another Chicago, Portland or Seattle.
“You have to decide whether you want someone like Charmaine McGuffey, who would use the sheriff’s office to be a political activist, pushing an anti-law enforcement agenda, or Bruce Hoffbauer, a proven law enforcement leader. and dedicated to public safety, “he wrote in an opinion piece in The Cincinnati Enquirer in August.
On Tuesday, Ms McGuffey won 52% of the nearly 405,000 votes cast in the sheriff’s race in Hamilton, a Democratic-leaning county where Joseph R. Biden Jr. won 57% of the vote, according to unofficial results.
Her victory was the culmination of a fierce campaign and an unresolved federal lawsuit she filed in May 2018 against Sheriff Neil and the county.
She said he used a biased internal affairs investigation on her to fire her. In a 108-page memo, investigators said she “used intimidating techniques such as belittling, insulting, yelling and yelling” to intimidate officers.
The memo stated that Ms McGuffey had made comments such as “you should be fired” and “you are incompetent”. Investigators also accused her of being dishonest during the investigation.
In her trial, Ms McGuffey said the allegations were unfounded and “a false pretext” to discriminate against her “because of her gender, her inability to conform to traditional female stereotypes, her sexual orientation and her open criticism of her. excessive use of force by the HCSD. against inmates.
Ms McGuffey was promoted to Major of Courts and Corrections in 2013, becoming the first woman to hold that rank in the history of the Sheriff’s Office. During her tenure, Ms McGuffey led a series of improvements to the prison, according to her trial.
She said the only time she was sanctioned was in 2010, when police arrested her and her friends as they walked out of a gay bar in Covington, Ky. She said they wrote him a quote after accusing them of bothering them because they were gay. The citations were dismissed, but the sheriff’s office suspended her for “improper conduct”.
As a major, Ms McGuffey said she was treated differently from her male counterparts, who could choose junior captains and had multiple administrative assistants.
She said she was banned from command staff meetings and reprimanded in front of her colleagues, and was told not to let The Cincinnati Enquirer publish a story about her upcoming marriage to her partner because “it could be. used against her, ”according to her trial.
The lawsuit also said she “had repeatedly raised concerns about multiple serious incidents of the use of force at the sheriff.” Ms McGuffey’s concerns were ignored, she said in an interview. Sheriff Neil has denied the allegations, court records show.
Ms McGuffey said tensions rose after seeing a recording of a deputy throwing a 62-year-old inmate into a jail cell. The inmate suffered a concussion and a broken hip, and needed 12 staples to close a head injury, she said.
She showed the tape to Sheriff Neil and the internal affairs officers, she said, and told them the deputy had to be suspended and face criminal charges.
Shortly after, in January 2017, an internal complaint was filed against her “alleging a hostile work environment” and the Internal Affairs division opened an investigation, questioning 30 employees.
She was fired six months later. Ms McGuffey said she was devastated.
“I literally couldn’t bear to leave the house,” she said. “It was horrible. I couldn’t eat.
In August 2018, she was working in her backyard when she received a call from a Democratic county agent who asked her if she would consider running against Sheriff Neil in the primary.
“I’m actually very motivated by the prospect of wearing this uniform and making a difference,” she said. “There are so many good men and women in this department who wear this uniform and they do it for a good reason.”