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Fired Davison Co. VSO alleges discrimination

A former Davison County employee is preparing her next steps in fighting her termination, which she alleges was both wrongful and discriminatory now that the Davison County Commission has decided not to take action on an offer.

Most recently, the Davison County Commission decided not to take action regarding accusations made by Jessica Davidson, the county's former Veterans Services Officer who was fired on Nov. 29 through a letter signed by Davison County Commission Chair Brenda Bode and whom the commission formally moved to terminate in March.

On July 24, commissioners voted to acknowledge a complaint filed against the county with the South Dakota Division of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They unanimously declined Davidson's offer for mediation.

Davidson told The Daily Republic in December that she believes she was wrongly terminated for "whistleblowing" by contacting the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs regarding alleged errors in veterans' files and misuse of a military insignia on a commemorative coin that was intended to be given to all WWII veterans.

In January, a letter written by Deputy State's Attorney James Taylor said that Davidson's accusations of wrongful termination were unfounded and that the county has the authority to terminate employment at any time, with or without warning.

Davidson's EEOC complaint, signed on June 21, alleges that the county discriminated against her due to her sex, her disability and that she objected to gender discrimination against another employee in October 2017. It also accuses County Commissioners Brenda Bode and Dennis Kiner of not taking action when Davidson reported a joke told at a mandatory County Veteran Services Officer event in Pierre that made her uncomfortable.

"I complained in May 2016 regarding sexual harassment and disability disclosure; I received no follow up, and in response I was retaliated against by further harassment, obstructing my ability to perform my duties, and hostility," Davidson wrote in her complaint.

Now, Davidson and her attorney, R. Shawn Tornow, are preparing for a hearing in September with the South Dakota Department of Labor, to which they have appealed Davidson's termination.

That appeal asserts that Davidson's termination was not handled properly. Among other accusations, it states that county commissioners "formally acted and voted" in Nov. 29 phone conversations "that were never noticed nor reported as being part of a statutorily required public meeting" regarding Davidson's termination, as well as that they consistently misinformed Davidson about the chain of command through which she should report issues.

Three of the five county commissioners declined to comment on their July 24 motion, and the other two did not respond to messages.