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Kimberly M. Gardner

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner at a press conference in May 2018. Photo by Nikos Frazier, nfrazier@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — A longtime employee of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that she was fired by Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner because she is white.

Nancy Woods’ lawsuit says she worked in the office for more than 28 years as a paralegal. But the suit says that she was among seven white prosecutors and support staff who were fired after Gardner, the city’s first African American circuit attorney, took over. The suit also says that as a result of the actions of Gardner and her top staffers, more than one-third of the employees have resigned or been fired since Gardner took office.

The suit names Gardner, chief of staff Michael Warrick, chief clerk Eula Simmons and former first assistant Robert Steele.

The suit says that Woods received positive work evaluations during her career. It also says Warrick and Simmons, her supervisor, grilled Woods in a Jan. 5, 2018, meeting until she cried, then told her that the lawyers in the office had nothing but “good things” to say about her. Eleven days later, she was told in a meeting with Warrick, Steele and Simmons that she was not a “team player,” and was told to resign or she would be fired. She refused to resign.

The suit alleges age and race discrimination, civil rights violations and other charges. It asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

A Gardner spokeswoman said the office would not comment because it had not yet been served with the suit.

Robert Patrick is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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