Ex-magistrate alleges Butler County judge discriminated, seeks $1M

A former Butler County magistrate has sued Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens, alleging he fired her because she is Jewish.

Kimberly Edelstein filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court Friday that alleged Stephens fired her for asking for eight religious holidays off in October, and she is asking for almost $1 million.

Stephens told the Journal-News he had not received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment.

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She included Prosecutor Mike Gmoser and Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson in the suit, alleging they and Stephens spoke poorly of her to prospective employers.

“Stephens’ termination of plaintiff was in retaliation for plaintiff attempting to exercise her right to practice religion,” Edelstein wrote in her complaint. “Upon information and belief, defendant Stephens was angry and upset with plaintiff when he terminated her employment and was acting with malice, hatred, revenge, a spirit of ill will and/or with reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of plaintiff.”

Edelstein also claims the county’s policy of allowing Christians to have Christmas off without taking a vacation day is discriminatory. She is asking the court to declare the county’s vacation policy unlawful; to force the three men to stop giving her negative job references and to be awarded in excess of $300,000 each for compensatory, punitive and liquidated damages.

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Gmoser called the lawsuit “nuts” and said he doesn’t discriminate. He said his office has diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

“That’s nuts,” Gmoser said. “I don’t discriminate based upon religion, race, politics, sex et cetera, and the public deserves to know that from their county prosecutor. I have a wonderful assistant prosecutor who is Jewish, I have a wonderful assistant prosecutor who is a Muslim and I have a wonderful assistant prosecutor who is a Baptist… I have Heinz 57 varieties here.”

Ferguson said Edelstein’s claims against him “have no merit.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with her firing. I didn’t even know why she left, I had no knowledge of it,” Ferguson said. “That’s her claim and it’s not true, I have not bad mouthed her.”

The county’s insurance company will defend the lawsuit.

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