Former county commissioner Warren sues Brunswick officials

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By Brian Slattery

Former Commissioner Charles Warren is taking Brunswick County’s leadership to court.

Warren filed a civil suit in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington on March 12 against current county commissioners Phil Norris, Marty Cooke, Scott Phillips and Pat Sykes, former commissioner Bill Sue, county manager Marty Lawing and county attorney Huey Marshall.

Warren claims the board of commissioners is guilty of gross misconduct and conspiracy to deny due process rights of county employees and used harassment, retaliation and intimidation to silence him when he refused to be complicit with other board members’ actions.

Warren’s claim says in 2010 Marshall took sexual harassment grievances filed by three Department of Social Services employees against former DSS director James Orrock out of the personnel office, gave them to Orrock and released the employees’ names in violation of state personnel laws.

Warren, who served as DSS board chairman at the time, claims he expressed concerns to then-county board chairman Sue that Marshall’s interference would impede an independent investigation of the sexual harassment grievances.

Also according to Warren’s complaint, an ethics code the commissioners developed was intended to silence him and his supporters on the DSS board.

 “According to the Conduct and Ethics codes, the county commissioners were required to relinquish their seats on a number of county boards. As a result, I was forced to give up my seat on the DSS Board. When I refused to comply, the County Commissioners resorted to retaliation,” Warren’s complaint states.

Warren said he was censured for challenging Marshall and the code of ethics.

He said the retaliation played through ridicule of his reputation for several weeks in local newspapers, including The Brunswick Beacon.

“I have been the recipient of attacks in the media that were intended to make me look incompetent and unworthy of someone holding the position. I was (censured) and removed from the DSS position and voted out of office,” Warren said.

Warren was elected to the county board in 2008, but lost a bid for a second term in the 2012 Republican primary.

Warren’s complaint asks for an investigation into:

·      The compromised confidentiality of state personnel records.

·      Lawing’s negligence in failing to secure records to meet privacy requirements.

·      Failure to follow sexual harassment complaint protocol.

·      The dismissal of another African-American member of the DSS board, Moses Stanley, four days after the code of ethics went into effect.

·      The public humiliation and retaliation of Warren for refusing to step down as chair of the DSS board.

Warren seeks a full investigation of his charges by the U.S. Marshals Service from outside Brunswick County, indictments of guilty elected officials, their removal from office and sentencing to the full extent of the law.

He also requests restitution for the three DSS employees who filed sexual harassment charges, for Stanley and for himself.

Brunswick County Attorney Huey Marshall said the commissioners involved in the suit would not comment on the case.

“There is a forum for this (the court), and we will be using that forum,” Marshall said.


Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.