Officer resigns, citing misogyny

Sgt. Penny Witherbee, of the Brattleboro Police Department, talks to a group of students in the St. Michael's Catholic Pre-School on Thursday, Aug. 9.

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BRATTLEBORO — Sgt. Penny Witherbee has resigned from the Brattleboro Police Department, almost a month after she alleged in a lawsuit gender discrimination and unwanted sexual advances in the workplace.

"The prospect of continuing to report to work with BPD for the next two weeks continues to subject me to severe anxiety and insomnia," Witherbee wrote in a letter to Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald on Aug. 9. "I cannot continue to work with Brattleboro Police Department because the department has made my working conditions so intolerable that I am compelled to resign. The ongoing harassment on the basis of my gender has destroyed both my career and my health. It is obvious to me that I do not have any career prospects in the misogynistic culture that exists within BPD."

Town Manager Peter Elwell said Witherbee's resignation has been accepted and will become effective Aug. 23. Fitzgerald said the department has no comment other than to confirm the resignation.

Witherbee could not be reached by press time Monday at the police station or by email.

The civil suit was filed in federal court last month, listing as defendants the town of Brattleboro, the Brattleboro Police Department, Elwell, Fitzgerald, Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland and Police Capt. Mark Carignan. Witherbee claims she was subjected to unwanted sexual advances by Carignan and Moreland and denied promotions due to her gender.

In the lawsuit Witherbee alleges "disparate treatment in that she has been denied bonus payments received by similarly situated male colleagues" and has been subjected to discipline for conduct that "similarly situated male colleagues regularly engaged in without incurring discipline." She also claims she was "subjected to continual and frequent pejorative insults on the basis of her gender," according to the suit. She was originally hired as a patrol officer in 2002.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.