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Leonardtown, MD- On Wednesday, September 30, 2020, Former Deputy State’s Attorney Jaymi Sterling announced her resignation following a complaint on questionable financial and personnel practices. Ms. Sterling alleges that she uncovered questionable financial and personnel practices at the County Office, and when she reported them to the appropriate authorities, she was demoted.
In a previous article, The Chronicle spoke with St. Mary’s County Commissioner John O’Connor on the allegations. “Elected officials in St Mary’s County Government have been made aware of the allegations against the office of the States Attorney by Jaymi Sterling. Both Written and Verbal Complaints lodging allegations of misappropriation of taxpayer funding have been filed,” said Commissioner John O’Connor.
In response to the articles and to add her input so that the community may know more, Ms. Barbara Rivera, a 21-year employee of the St Mary’s County States Attorney’s Office and 8-year Mr. Richard Fritz Assistant has released this statement:
“After 21 years with the State’s Attorney’s Office and the last eight years as Mr. Fritz’s legal assistant, I decided to put in my resignation on September 24, 2020. This was a difficult decision for me after many years of service. I would like to clarify a few things that are rumored in newspaper articles and social media news sites. First the $25,000 yearly “bonus” that would be going to the “administrative assistant”, Dena Womack, Office Manager, who has only been with the office for four years. These funds would have been taken from Project Graduation funds that are donated by the public and used for the high school graduate’s graduation party held at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River to keep them safe on graduation night.”
“I was given the letter on Friday, August 7, 2020, to review and send it to the County Commissioners, Finance Department, Human Resources, and Dr. Bridgett, county administrator, by Richard Fritz. After I read the letter, I realized the requested funds were going to be allotted to an employee that is not even vested with the county. To justify giving Mrs. Womack these funds, claims were made that she has the caseload of two employees. That is false, she is in a position that a previous employee worked, and that employee was never compensated for extra work that she did, in addition, Mrs. Womack is a pay grade level higher than the previous employee in that position. When I brought my concerns to Mr. Fritz’s attention, with examples of numerous employees that have worked in our office for 15, 20, and 30 years, including myself, having increased caseloads throughout our years of service his response to me was “SO”, then continuing with my concerns to him, and how I held the position of Office Manager, worked with his caseload and another attorney’s caseload but I was never compensated for my work, his response to me was “maybe you should have bitched more”. I was so taken back by his response I left the office for the rest of the day. I could not comprehend how I; a 21-year loyal and hardworking employee could be treated with such disrespect.”
“I would like to address the complaint filed by Jaymi Sterling. Mrs. Sterling was acting on my behalf filing a complaint against Dena Womack. Once Mrs. Womack discovered that I knew the $25,000 was going to her, she made it clear to another staff member that I should not have said anything and she was not happy that other staff members knew about the scheme to get her salary increased by $25,000. Mrs. Womack then posted an image online addressed to me and another coworker that was inappropriate and intimidating. I felt uncomfortable knowing I had to go into the office the following day. “
“The next day at work, I emailed Mrs. Sterling with my complaint with respect to the inappropriate posted image and unprofessional behavior by Mrs. Womack. Mrs. Sterling met with me in her office and asked if I was just trying to blow off steam or if I really wanted to file the complaint. She advised me to think about it and if I felt that I was sure I wanted to file the complaint she would do so. I sat on my complaint for a few weeks and during that time I felt as if I was being pushed out of the office little by little by Rick Fritz and Dena Womack. I was being retaliated against for discussing Mrs. Womack’s salary increase, and it was at that time I told Mrs. Sterling to file my complaint. She was the Chief of Staff, her duties included taking staff complaints. She was following the policy and protocol of the County Government. Mr. Fritz came into the office the day after my complaint was filed and immediately demoted Mrs. Sterling. Her demotion was done in the most unprofessional manner. Mr. Fritz did not demote Mrs. Sterling in the privacy of an office behind closed doors, instead, he decided to yell it so loud that the whole office heard him demote Mrs. Sterling. Mr. Fritz also had my complaint pulled from Human Resources.”
“He then had a meeting with Mrs. Womack and I together in his office and told me that my complaint did not amount to anything and if I wanted to file my complaint, I should have it on his desk by noon that following Friday and at that time, he would decide whether or not it should be filed. I wanted my complaint filed, but obviously, Mr. Fritz was not going to follow the proper procedures to do so. Why is it his decision whether my complaint gets filed or not? I have NEVER said I do not want my complaint filed! I even consulted with Human Resources at my exit interview and was advised I would not be able to file my complaint on my own. “
“I find it very perplexing that after some attorneys, Mr. Fritz and Mrs. Womack went on a nine-day “conference” to Ocean City, paid for by the County, that was actually canceled, all the nasty behavior and money schemes started to take place.”
The Southern Maryland Chronicle continues to investigate the actions of the States Attorney’s Office, not only with Ms. Rivera and Ms. Sterling’s Complaints, but we have also recently received all the original documentation regarding the Ocean City Trip for a conference that was canceled and office employees were reimbursed for. We have also received documents related to the $100,000 the States Attorney’s Office reallocated to St. Mary’s County’s Public Schools for laptops as there appear to be some irregularities in the reallocation.