Sheriff Counts reacts to woman’s civil rights lawsuit against him, district judge

Lawsuit claims judge wanted younger employee who’d perform lap dances

Sheriff Counts reacts to woman’s civil rights lawsuit against him, district judge

SHARP COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - A woman claims she was fired after a judge in Sharp County wanted a younger security officer who would want to perform lap dances.

Mary Wanley filed the lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas. She is suing Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts and Mark Johnson, Sharp County District Judge.

The lawsuit claims Wanley was replaced with an individual who was “younger and prettier, at least in the eyes of the District Judge, Mark Johnson.”

Wanley goes on to claim that Judge Johnson fabricated reasons for her to be fired because he wanted the younger and prettier woman to perform lap dances for him in the office.

“Because of Plaintiff’s age, Johnson, upon information and belief, would not have wanted Plaintiff [Wanley] to perform lap dances for him. Nonetheless, performing lap dances was not an essential job function,” the lawsuit said.

Wanley says because of the circumstances surrounding her termination, she’s been discriminated against on the basis of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and Arkansas state law.

“Plaintiff performed her job satisfactorily, but the district judge simply wanted a younger more attractive individual who would flirt with him.”

Wanley is seeking compensation for lost pay, lost retirement, incurred medical bills, as well as other damages.

According to online court records, Counts and Johnson have not responded to the allegations, nor has a first hearing been set.

Region 8 News has reached out to all parties involved for further comment.

On Wednesday, Counts responded to the allegations and asked Region 8 News to come to Sharp County.

He provided a paper to Region 8 News, showing that Wanley was still employed by the Sharp County Sheriff’s Office. He says Wanley was officially hired by the District Court through a quorum court vote in 2012, making her a full-time employee under Judge Johnson.

Sheriff Mark Counts provided a paper to Region 8 News, showing that Wanley was still employed by the Sharp County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Mark Counts provided a paper to Region 8 News, showing that Wanley was still employed by the Sharp County Sheriff’s Office. (Source: Sharp Co. Sheriff's Office)

Counts says the decision of her being fired as bailiff/probation officer was made solely by Johnson and he has no control or say in that.

He also added that he has known Johnson for years and anyone would be foolish to believe the comment of Johnson wanting a “younger and prettier” security officer.

In all, he believes there was intention with the timeliness of the lawsuit being filed.

“It was all lies and the only reason it’s happening right now is cause you have an election right now. That’s sad. That’s the way it’s going to go with politics. You are going to throw trash on somebody, just a few days before the election," Counts said.

The sheriff says after she was fired by the Judge, he rehired her in October, part-time. She performed one paid-transport and he has not seen or heard from her since October.

But, as a part-time deputy sheriff, she does not have to come in every day and many of his part-time employees won’t work for an extensive amount of time.

He told Region 8 News that a phone call to him Monday was the first he has heard about the lawsuit.

Sheriff Counts also confirmed that he has not been served any papers pertaining to the lawsuit and that they are also investigating Wanley on double-dipping on timesheets between the sheriff’s office and another local department.

Michael Cook, Johnson’s campaign spokesperson, released a statement on Johnson’s behalf saying:

“Mary Wanley’s frivolous lawsuit is full of outright lies. Ms. Wanley was terminated for reasons of fraud and gross maleficence. Ms. Wanley “double-dipped” by claiming to work at different departments at the exact same time and would often show up late for work and/or leave early. For these, and other documented reasons, she was terminated. The documented facts of her poor job performance will be presented in court if this ridiculous lawsuit ever makes it to trial. These last minute veiled attempts to discredit a respected and long-serving Judge are often the tactics of desperate people.”
Michael Cook, Judge Mark R. Johnson's campaign spokesperson

To read the full complaint, click here.

On Feb. 25, Johnson released a campaign video on his Facebook page speaking out against what he calls “frivolous lawsuit.”

In the video, he alleges the plaintiff in the lawsuit is a donor to his opponent in the election for State District Judge for Court District 11, Division 1, Chris Jester.

According to financial disclosure documents from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office website, Wanley donated $1,000 to Jester’s campaign on Feb. 3.

That election takes place on March 3.

That video can be seen below.

The Truth about Frivilous Lawsuits

A week before the election a frivolous lawsuit was filed against Judge Johnson by one of his opponent's big donors that is full of disgusting lies. Like you, Judge Johnson is tired of scam artists who file lawsuits in an attempt to score a financial jackpot. Here's Judge Mark Johnson's response to the lies. 🎥: Jody Shackelford

Posted by Elect Judge Mark R. Johnson - State District Judge on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Candidate Chris Jester spoke to Region 8 News over the phone and stressed that his campaign had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

“Ms. Wanley started this process months ago with this EOCC complaint being filed,” Jester said. “So, this has been something that’s been filed for several months. As for the time of when the lawsuit was filed when it was, you probably need to contact Ms. Wanley’s attorney in Little Rock.”

Watch Jester’s full interview with Region 8 News in the video below:

WATCH: Chris Jester defend his campaign for judge seat

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