Jury decides schools not guilty in sex bias case COURT DOCKET

February 01, 1993

A Carroll County jury took about an hour Friday to determine that county school officials didn't discriminate against a woman who was passed over for a promotion in 1991.

The verdict was a disappointment to Margaret A. Payne, 45, TC 15-year employee who had filed a $1.5 million gender bias lawsuit against the school board after she denied a central office job in April 1991.

The suit said that Ms. Payne, a Westminster High School marketing teacher and department chairwoman, was the victim of discrimination when she applied for one of two personnel specialist positions.

One of the people promoted -- 10-year guidance counselor Stephen Guthrie -- was less qualified than Ms. Payne, her suit claimed. The second slot was filled by a woman with several years of experience with the state Department of Education.

"I'm disappointed," Ms. Payne said after the jury's verdict. "I thought we had given them enough information to show that the Board of Education's policy is unfair."

Having won the case, school officials reportedly are going seek payment of their legal fees from Ms. Payne, said her attorney, Jeff Griffith.

"The board announced up at the bench that it was going to seek legal fees," he said. "What this does is send an intimidating message to other women who may be victims of discrimination."

Board attorney Edmund J. O'Meally could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Most top school officials -- including Superintendent Edward Shilling -- testified during the four-day trial. Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. presided.

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