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Deputy sues over alleged anti-Semitic remarks

Clackamas County Sheriff's Office is investigating claim

Clackamas County sheriff’s corrections deputy Rich Sneath is suing the county for discrimination, claiming he was harassed and ridiculed because he is Jewish.

Sneath’s lawsuit, filed June 24 in Portland’s U.S. District Court, seeks at least $500,000 from the county because he claims sheriff’s office co-workers and supervisors subjected him to anti-Semitic comments and wrote disparaging things about him in Facebook posts.

Sgt. Nate Thompson, a spokesperson for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that Sherwood resident Sneath works at the Clackamas County Jail, but said the office had not been notified of the lawsuit. Thompson added that the office can’t comment on pending litigation.

The Clackamas Office of County Counsel also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Portland attorney David Hollander, who represents Sneath, says the trouble began when Sneath made a whistle-blower complaint in November 2012. Hollander declined to specify the nature of the original complaint.

However, afterward, Sneath claims his officemates and supervisors began retaliating against him during and after work hours in a private Facebook group, making alleged comments such as “Looks like Hitler missed one.”

According to Hollander, Sneath is one of a handful of Jewish people employed by the sheriff’s office (the county does not keep records on employees’ religious affiliation).

In his lawsuit, Sneath alleges that such anti-Semitic comments were repeated in the workplace and that Undersheriff David Kirby, his supervisor, was aware of the comments by Jan. 22, 2013.

The lawsuit claims that the county did not conduct an investigation into Sneath’s complaints until April 2013 when rhetoric began to escalate. An unnamed co-worker is accused of saying things like substituting “Jew” for “you” when referring to Sneath, and saying “Happy Holocaust Appreciation Day” for Holocaust Remembrance Day in April 2013.

Sneath claims he was threatened with disciplinary action, and could have been fired, for complaining about his co-workers’ conduct.

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