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Sex discrimination charges rejected

A federal court jury in Buffalo has sided with the Town of Ellicott and its Police Department in a sexual discrimination case brought by the town's first female police officer.

On Thursday, town officials said the eight-member jury returned a unanimous verdict of "no cause on all actions" in the 3-year-old case involving Tera Cunningham.

Cunningham also alleged sexual harassment in the civil case. She claimed that unwanted sexual advances and comments had been made toward her since September 2002.

Town Supervisor Pat Tyler joined Police Chief Bill Ohnmeiss in expressing relief over the outcome.

"We stood behind the chief from day one, and we were very supportive of him," Tyler said. "We were 99.99 percent sure that nothing had ever happened, and it was proven by an eight-member jury."

The jury deliberated five hours Wednesday before handing up its decision. The trial ran for 10 days, and several town officials, including Tyler and Ohnmeiss, testified.

Cunningham was fired after receiving a letter in March of 2004 from Ohnmeiss informing her that she had not completed her probationary period successfully. However, she claimed that she had been commended for her work just before her release.

Ohnmeiss called the past three years a "long, hard journey," and said he was "very pleased with the outcome."

Neither Cunningham nor her attorney would comment on the case.

A representative for Cunningham's lawyer, Christina Agola, said Agola won't comment because Cunningham's defamation case is still pending in State Supreme Court.

"There was a charge pending on that," Tyler said. "We don't know if it's going to be dropped now but, she won absolutely nothing of the five or six charges that she filed against the town. We are hoping this one will go away also."

Agola's representative also said the attorney has not decided whether to appeal the results of this civil case.

Michael Perley of Buffalo, the town's attorney in the federal suit, said Agola has 10 days, starting Thursday, to ask Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott to set aside the verdict.

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