TS20-20 Sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal accountability

Their Story Matter with Sara Troy and her guest JoAnn Ewin, on-air from May 14th

JoAnn Ewin was an exemplary nurse working at Little Sandy Correctional, but one day she said no to a date with the warden and her life was sent upside down. Today 6 years later she is still fighting for her wrongful dismissal and the justification of being blacklisted and persecuted.

Will justice prevail or will she be caught in the big man’s cluTS20-20 Sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal accountabilityb of sweeping it all under the rug? She shares her story with us and prays that justice will prevail in June at her next court hearing.

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JoAnn Ewin says”I started work at Little Sandy Correctional Complex on November 5, 2012. I was originally hired by the KY. DOC and Correct Care Integrated Health. Then in the fall of 2013, they lost their contract to Correct Care Solutions. Before I was hired I had to go through a background check and was drug tested. The drug test was done at the prison. I was interviewed at the prison by Heather Nickell, acting HSA (Health Services Administrator), Deputy Warden, Mary Godfrey, and Warden Joseph P. Meko. I had to meet Warden Meko’s approval and he had to give the go-ahead to the company before they would hire me. I was issued two badges, one from the KY DOC and one from the company. Both had a photopic on them. CCIH and CCS never had any of their company personnel at the prison. CCS sent representatives to the prison when they won the bid for the new contract to ensure a smooth transfer from CCIH. Everyone in the medical department had to go through doing all the new employee paperwork. All business was conducted by the HSA via internet and phone calls. All medical staff and correctional officers (new hires and all other staff) received the same training. Only correctional officers receive weapons training. This training was done at LSCC in Sandy Hook. Then yearly, all staff have to complete online training that is required.

I was written up by a CO (correctional officer) at the prison on October 20, 2013. I was in segregation doing my evening medication pass which usually took place at 10:00 p.m or close to that time frame. There was an inmate that was in solitary confinement because he had attempted suicide the day before. He had been given Lexapro and Seroquel by the company psychiatrist for depression and anxiety-related issues. The Dr. issued an order for him to have a sack lunch with his night-time meds. All medical staff knew the order existed and that the inmate had to have food with an evening med pass. The officers in segregation were responsible for making sure that these “sack lunches” were available to give inmates that had a special order or were diabetics. Sometimes, when they had no lunches the nurse would have to go to the kitchen for the food themselves. I had to do this on a few occasions myself. I was written up by the CO that assisted me with my rounds that night for “following the Dr.s order by giving the inmate food so he wouldn’t become nauseated from the meds. He had to have food in his stomach or he would vomit profusely. The officer stated in his report I had given the inmate food and broke the rule “staff is not allowed to give inmates anything”. I was later taken to the warden’s office and was interrogated for over 2 hours about the incident by the warden and internal affairs personnel. I explained to them that the Dr., had given the inmate an order for the food and I was following his order. (I have a copy of the order and the write up). The warden then told me, ” I don’t know why this officer is wasting my time with such petty issues” and he sent me on to medical to finish my shift.

We had an inmate that suffered from a broken jaw at the same time as this was going on. Another inmate hit him in the face with a lock. An R.N. I worked with on the second shift would go or send me to the facility kitchen to get extra food for this inmate. He DID NOT have a Dr. order for this extra food. She told me the evenings she wasn’t on duty to make sure he got this food and I did. I was never written up for doing this nor was she. I felt like I was a target. The acting HSA at the time and nurse practitioner tried to do away with the Dr.s order. They tried to change the order to “crackers” with meds. I told them they didn’t have the authority to change or cancel a Dr’s order and I would continue to give the food. That’s when the acting HSA started retaliating against me. I felt like a target.

I was hired by Warden Meko on November 5, 2012 and was terminated by him on April 16, 2014. I had no idea I was going to be fired. I hadn’t had any write ups or hadn’t been reprimanded in anyway and wasn’t given any paperwork explaining why I was losing my security clearance. I later learned I was deemed a “security risk” but never have learned what that risk was. My HSA, Kimberly Duvall, was waiting for me that evening. When she saw me she met me outside I hadn’t even been allowed to go into the building where I worked. She approached me and said we need to go to the warden’s office. I ask her why, she said I don’t know, we’ll find out when we get there. She knew all along what was going to take place. We went into his office and he told me to give him my badges that he was terminating me by pulling my security clearance. I ask him “why”? He said he no longer wanted me there. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me when he said that. He then told me to leave and get the hell out of his sight. Kim sat there and never once offered any support in my defense. All she said was “this is the warden’s house he can do what he want he wants to when he feels like it”. I gave him my badges and left. I found out later that he sent out a memo to all thirteen state facilities black balling from ever being able to work in a state prison the rest of my nursing career. I was never given a chance to talk to anyone about what happened.

My nursing record has never had any negativity or black marks on it at any time or even at the time I was terminated at LSCC. My name and reputation have been permanently damaged by this. It prevented me from getting a few good jobs after the prison because once an employer ask me and knew I had been terminated from my job there they wouldn’t hire me. It looked like “I” had done something wrong when I hadn’t.

I applied for unemployment benefits and was denied. I hired an attorney, had a hearing and won my benefits! I received UI for 26 weeks and received the maxium amount allowed at the time. My paychecks came from CCS and were deposited into my checking account. We were paid bi-weekly. In 2013 I earned $40,000. When a nurse was needed to fill someone else’s shift I was the one they called. I worked every shift they had at the prison. The HSA was responsible for making the work schedule.

I was under so much stress while I worked at the prison that in early 2014 I was put on Celexa or Prozac for anxiety. I was having insomnia and suffering from headaches and other stress-related problems. I am still on Seroquel to this day. I still have bad dreams and insomnia related to what I went through while working there.

My attorney is the only person that knows my story and what happened while I worked there. Little did I know during that time four female CO’s (correctional officers) were being sexually harassed by their male supervisor. I was terminated on April 16, 2014 and they filed their lawsuit in August of 2014. I heard talk while I was there but had no idea the extent of what they were enduring.

I tried for 2-3 weeks to contact the HR department at CCS. No one would ever take my call or call me back. I left countless messages. The warden supervised all activity and all employees at the prison. Everything had to go through him and have his approval. I was warned by a co-worker after I started work there to watch the warden. I never paid a lot of attention to the remark and concentrated on my job. After I had worked there a while when I would see the warden, he was always friendly, smiling, and winking. Then all that changed one day in February 2014. I was going into work one evening in February. Some of the officers and the warden were standing around talking and laughing. He caught me alone as I was going through the metal detector. He asks me, “how are things down in medical”? I replied, ” things are good as far as I know”. He said, “if you ever need anything let me know, maybe we can have a drink sometime”. I replied “no thank you” and gathered my bag in a rush and went on to the medical department which was in a separate building from entry. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I tried to avoid all contact with him after that.

I never filed a complaint or any type or report against the warden after this happened. People ask me why and the reasons were simple. I had my 18-year-old son that was in his senior year of high school. He needed money for senior-related expenses. Prom, pictures, etc. I was afraid of retaliation, but I lost my job anyway. I was ashamed and thought no one would believe me. The only person I confided in was a co-worker. Somehow the warden learned I had told her about his advances and in Sept. 2014 he terminated her in the same way he did me. She was never able to get any help from the company we worked for either. She has filed a separate lawsuit in 2015. The warden retired with his full pension and moved to Georgia. A report from the KY Personnel Cabinet came out in May 2019 exposing the warden and LSCC revealing a culture existed within LSCC which may have contributed to acts of sexual harassment and a reluctance to report allegations of sexual harassment. One report of sexual harassment was never investigated at all. Complaints were also “swept under the rug”. The report is public knowledge and was filed on May 14, 2019.

I have had a civil suit filed in Elliott County Circuit Court since Dec. 28, 2014. 14-CI-00084. My case has laid idle I would say at least 75% of the time since it has been filed. I have no idea(s) why it has or is lingering in court for so long. But I certainly would like to have it settled this year. I do know the residing judge will probably make the final ruling and I will not have a jury trial like my attorney ask for back in the beginning. I want due justice that I am entitled to. I was terminated for saying “no” and want the world to know my story. No one should have this much power over another.




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