Former HR director sues ACE, former administrator, teacher

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 3, 2012 

A former employee of the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence is suing the school, a former administrator and a teacher, alleging race discrimination and defamation.

Lisa Wiggins' lawsuit says that shortly after being promoted from a finance position to the human resources and benefits coordinator, she was criticized for "moving up too quickly" by former assistant director Karen Lee, math teacher Steve Shamblen and others at ACE. The remarks were made because Wiggins is a black woman, the federal suit says.

The lawsuit also says Lee and Shamblen spread false rumors that Wiggins was having an affair with ACE director Christopher Dinkins.

According to the lawsuit, Wiggins was an exemplary employee. She had only been accused of performance deficiencies once, in March 2010, for problems with record-keeping. Those deficiencies were not her fault, the suit says.

Other white employees had been charged with "far greater" deficiencies, but were not punished like Wiggins was, according to the suit.

Both Lee and Shamblen are white.

Wiggins was fired June 8. The lawsuit was filed Sept. 27 and originally named the Beaufort County School District as a defendant. It was amended Oct. 20 to name the school, not the district.

According to a response filed Nov. 16 by the school and Shamblen's attorneys, Wiggins was fired for "legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons that had nothing to do with her race or any grievance of any kind."

Wiggins never filed a grievance with the school or complained to anyone about alleged harassment and discrimination, the response says. It also denies that Shamblen spread rumors about a relationship between Wiggins and Dinkins.

Patrick Carr, an attorney representing Wiggins, referred questions to co-counsel J. Lewis Cromer. Attempts Tuesday to reach Cromer for comment were unsuccessful.

Attempts to reach Dwayne Mazyck, the attorney representing the school and Shamblen, also were unsuccessful.

It was not immediately clear from online court records if Lee had filed a response to the suit.

Lee resigned from the school in September and could not be reached Tuesday.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

ACE assistant director resigns, Sept. 15, 2011 Academy for Career Excellence board fires one employee, reprimands two leaders; May 19, 2011

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