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After ‘gross abuse of power,’ ex-deputy ends dispute with Columbus. Will she run for office?

Things to know in ex-deputy marshal’s settlement with Columbus

Alicia Davenport says she’s not looking back after settling a long-running discrimination lawsuit against Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman and Columbus Consolidated Government.
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Alicia Davenport says she’s not looking back after settling a long-running discrimination lawsuit against Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman and Columbus Consolidated Government.

Alicia Narsis Davenport’s long city government nightmare finally has come to an end, after years of conflict.

Yet the former police officer and deputy marshal who sued the city five years ago after repeated complaints of discrimination says she’s been asked to run for marshal.

“Right now I am pondering how well my service can best be utilized for Columbus citizens. I’ve received several calls from local lawyers and citizens to run for marshal,” she wrote in an email Wednesday, when asked about her plans since the city settled her lawsuit.

She filed the federal lawsuit against Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman and the Columbus Consolidated Government on Nov. 3, 2014, but then had to put her claim on hold to await the outcome of criminal proceedings, after the city pressed charges against her for violating her oath of office.

But the criminal case did not proceed after prosecutors last year missed a deadline to notify Davenport that a grand jury would consider the case against her. A Superior Court judge ruled the deadline for giving notice was not negotiable, and threw out Davenport’s indictment, after the statute of limitations for the offense had expired.

That cleared the way for her civil case to continue, but city leaders soon decided to end that as well, with Columbus Council agreeing to pay Davenport an $83,000 settlement. Attorneys subsequently filed notice in federal court to close the civil case.

That brought an end to the long-running dispute Davenport described as an ordeal for her and her family.

“My daughters and I suffered immensely for literally over half a decade,” she wrote Wednesday. “I lost both my parents before being able to clear my name.”

A long story

Davenport’s issues with the city date back to 2006, two years after she began her law enforcement career with the Columbus Police Department.

The police and marshal have different duties. Columbus police primarily are responsible for daily law enforcement and criminal investigations. The marshal’s office primarily is charged with executing the functions of Muscogee Municipal Court, which handles small claims, wage garnishments and evictions.

Davenport was a police officer when she first submitted discrimination complaints to the city and to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, before filing her first federal lawsuit against the city in December 2006.

Davenport, who is black, claimed she was denied the same backup white officers got while working undercover, and alleged she was punished with undesirable assignments when she complained.

She transferred from the police department to the marshal’s office before a jury in September 2008 found she had suffered discrimination only because of her gender, and recommended she receive $5,000.

Then came a confrontation on Oct. 28, 2013, that led to her facing the felony charge of violating her oath.

Davenport was the first officer to arrive at a three-vehicle crash at Forrest Road and Wellborn Drive, and stopped to assist. When police accident investigator Doug Dunlap got there, he declined her help, so she decided to leave, she said. A confrontation ensued, and Dunlap later claimed Davenport’s cruiser hit his right leg as she drove off.

She was arrested Dec. 12, 2013. After filing her second federal lawsuit in 2014, she asked that it be postponed pending the outcome of the criminal case. But a Muscogee County grand jury did not indict her until Oct. 27, 2017, right before the statute of limitations expired.

In a hearing last year before Muscogee Superior Court Judge Ben Land, her criminal defense attorneys Mark Shelnutt and William Kendrick argued a state law required prosecutors to give a peace officer accused of a crime 20 days’ notice before a grand jury heard the allegation.

District Attorney Julia Slater gave Davenport notice on Dec. 9, 2017, only 18 days before the grand jury indicted her.

In his decision Dec. 27, 2018, Judge Land said he had no choice but to dismiss the charge against Davenport because the law mandating 20 days’ notice was not open to re-interpretation.

“Allowing this case to proceed under these circumstances would not only ignore the express terms of the statute but would also detract from the legislative purpose by reducing the time that the officer is legislatively given to consider her pre-presentment options,” he wrote.

Final appeals

That ended the criminal case, but left unfinished Davenport’s appeals through the city government, which she had to exhaust before the federal court could hear her lawsuit.

Countryman in 2013 first suspended Davenport for five days without pay, after her confrontation with Dunlap. When she was arrested, the marshal suspended her indefinitely, pending the outcome of the criminal case.

Davenport had to appeal that suspension to the city Personnel Review Board. Represented by attorney Gwyn Newsom, who handled her federal lawsuit, she had a hearing before the review board on March 20. The board voted to uphold the disciplinary action.

Meanwhile in federal court, District Court Judge Clay Land had ordered attorneys to prepare for the civil trial, to complete the discovery of evidence by May 27 and file any motions for summary judgment by June 17.

Those steps proved unnecessary as attorneys negotiated the settlement that Columbus Council approved on April 30. Lawyers filed federal court notices of the settlement on May 13 and 16.

On Wednesday, Countryman said he now hopes to help Davenport continue a career in law enforcement: “I wish her well, and we do have a cordial relationship.” Countryman has announced plans to run for sheriff, leaving the marshal’s office up for grabs in 2020.

Davenport said she wasn’t looking back.

“A gross abuse of power was demonstrated by more than one person to essentially bully me,” she emailed. “However, I decided to end the 5 ½ years of suffering that was taking a toll on my family by offering a settlement. I cut my losses which were substantial in many aspects.”

Her daughters now are ages 12, 19 and 22, she said. The youngest was in first grade when Davenport’s dispute with the city started.

Her father Albert Davenport died on Jan. 19, 2016, and her mother Patricia Davenport passed away the next year, on April 13, 2017, she said.

With a degree in accounting, Davenport currently teaches finance management to soldiers at Fort Benning. She finally resigned from the marshal’s office on May 31.

“I suppose God made me uncomfortable in order for me to move where he needs me most,” she wrote.

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