Former Sheriff accused of discrimination in suit against Rio Grande County
By Robert Boczkiewicz | For Alamosa Citizen
A Rio Grande County emergency dispatcher alleges that she was fired due to a pattern of discrimination against Hispanic employees and because she advocated on behalf of a rape victim.
The allegations of Lauren N. Trujillo are in a 20-page lawsuit against Rio Grande County that she filed in U.S. District Court for Colorado in Denver.
The county denies the allegations and the claims of discrimination, which she based on laws against discrimination and retaliation. Former Sheriff Donald McDonald fired Trujillo in 2021. She had been hired in 2019.
“Sheriff McDonald frequently referred to individuals of Hispanic ancestry, who make up a sizable percentage of the population in Rio Grande County, as the ‘blackwater association,’ meaning they were the sewer water of the community,” the lawsuit alleges.
Trujillo contends the sheriff denied reasonable requests she, who often worked alone at night, made about her working conditions, including having access to medical supplies she needed for a health condition.
An event that led to the firing occurred when a prisoner, who reported she had been raped before being taken into custody, asked for medical attention, according to the lawsuit. It states that Trujillo complained to the sheriff about a decision to delay for 12 hours taking the bleeding prisoner to a hospital.
McDonald allegedly told the dispatcher that it was not her place to object to the delay. She contends he conducted a dubious investigation in which he did not hear her side of events.
The county, in a court filing on Oct. 27, contends there was nothing improper about Trujillo’s firing and states it may have been due to her performing unsatisfactorily.
Trujillo is seeking monetary compensation from the county for what she alleges occurred. The case is in an early stage of litigation. Both sides are represented by Denver-area attorneys.