Judge dismisses lawsuit against sheriff involved in affair

Judge dismisses lawsuit against sheriff involved in affair

BELLE CHASSE, LA (WVUE) - A federal judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit against Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Lonnie Greco that was filed against a former PPSO employee.

Carol Ruggles filed the lawsuit in May of 2014 against Greco. In the suit, Ruggles claims she had a 16-month relationship with Greco and says he hired her at the sheriff's office so he could keep a closer eye on her.

When Ruggles ended the relationship, the lawsuit says she was given a choice to resign or be arrested on a charge of doctor shopping. Ruggles resigned but state police later arrested her on the prescription charges. The lawsuit says she was escorted by police to a psychiatric hospital soon after that arrest because the officers claimed she was suicidal.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Roby dismissed the suit with prejudice. It was dismissed last week after Greco filed a motion for summary judgment.

Greco admitted to the sexual relationship in September 2013. He said it started in April 2012, prior to Greco being sworn in as sheriff. He said the relationship ended in August 2013.

"I offer my sincere apologies to the citizens of this parish for this indiscretion on my part. It was an inappropriate relationship, but I am relieved the court saw this for what it was, a consensual relationship, outside my duties as sheriff," Greco said. "At no time was Mrs. Ruggles's rights ever violated."

Greco is releasing details of the lawsuit since the case was dismissed.

He said Ruggles was accused of doctor shopping on August 2 and August 16, 2003. Deputies confirmed the allegations the next week.

On August 25, Ruggles met with Greco and his wife and told them she was going to leave the area to start a new life.

The next day, Ruggles was confronted by investigators about the doctor shopping allegations, which she denied. She then resigned from the sheriff's office to avoid an administrative investigation, Greco said. She was served with a search warrant for her cell phone and revealed she was having an affair with Greco.

The next day, Ruggles gave a second resignation letter to Greco with an effective date of September, 10, 2013.

The investigation was turned over to state police, who arrested and charged Ruggles with 28 counts of doctor shopping the next month.

In November, Ruggles filed a complaint against the PPSO alleging discrimination based on retaliation and gender. The Department of Justice determined it would not file a lawsuit based on the amount of time it had to investigate the claims.

During this time, Ruggles admitted to one felony count of doctor shopping. She was put in a state diversion program. Six months later, upon successfully completing the conditions of the program, the charges were ultimately refused. Greco said the charges were not refused due to a lack of merit.

On May 4, 2014, Ruggles filed a federal lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, retaliation for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, malicious prosecution in violation of the fourth and 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and malicious prosecution in violation of laws of Louisiana. She dismissed those claims last month with the exception of the sexual harassment claim. Ruggles alleged that because she ended her relationship with Greco, she was forced to resign.

Greco said he was entitled to the summary judgment because Ruggles' claim was baseless. He argued that the doctor shopping investigation was unrelated to their relationship because it began weeks before the relationship ended.

"Ruggles is not able to establish that there is genuine issue of material fact as to whether she was subjected to unwelcome harassment or that her rejection of Sheriff Greco caused her constructive discharge," Roby wrote in her decision. "It is well established that their relationship was consensual and she has presented no evidence of Sheriff Greco subjecting her to unwelcome conduct before or after she terminated the relationship."

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