The death Sunday of a Muscogee County sheriff's captain has triggered part of a discrimination lawsuit settlement that says Lt. Donna Tompkins must be promoted to fill the vacancy.
She will take the place of Capt. Larry Tew, who authorities said died of accidental asphyxiation Sunday at his County Line Road home in Midland.
The automatic promotion results from a federal gender discrimination suit three women filed against Sheriff John Darr, challenging his male-dominated promotions. The other two plaintiffs were Joan Wynn and Terri Ezell.
In an order dated Nov. 23, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land wrote:
"Lt. Tompkins shall be promoted to the rank of captain in the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office by July 1, 2016 or within thirty days of the next captain vacancy, whichever occurs first, and she shall receive going forward from the date of her promotion the same level of compensation and benefits that she would have received had she been promoted to the captain position that is the subject of the present action."
The judge also awarded Tompkins $271,975 in attorneys' fees and other expenses.
Attorneys for both the city and for Tompkins agreed Thursday that Land's order requires Darr to promote Tompkins to fill Tew's position. Darr also acknowledged Tompkins will be the next captain, but noted promoting her opens vacancies at lower ranks that also must be filled now.
"We're working through talking to those people and finding out where everybody moves," he said. "Of course she'll be the next captain, and we're going to be announcing the next lieutenant and sergeant, and I'm hoping to do that by next Friday."
Tompkins declined comment Thursday, saying she had yet to hear anything "official" about the vacancy.
Her 30 years of work with the Sheriff's Office was detailed in court records regarding her lawsuit: She started as a clerk in Columbus Recorder's Court in 1984, and became a county jail correctional officer in 1993. She joined the patrol division as a deputy sheriff in 1994 and earned a promotion to sergeant in 2000. She was promoted to lieutenant in charge of internal and legal standards in 2007.
After Darr took office in 2009, he eliminated the job Tompkins was doing, and transferred her to the jail.
In April 2010, Sheriff's Capt. Leroy Mills retired, and Tompkins applied for the job. Darr instead promoted Charles Shafer, who had a long history of jail experience. Though experienced, Shafer lacked Tompkins' education, as he had not obtained an associate's degree. Tompkins had a master's degree in public administration. She claimed Shafer's promotion resulted from gender discrimination.