COLUMBIA -- Two former Department of Corrections employees were forced to perform executions in order to maintain their ranks as majors and head special units for extra pay, according to two federal lawsuits.
Ira Baxley, who worked at the department for 22 years, and Terry Bracey, who worked there for 23 years, are suing prisons director Jon Ozmint and director of operations Robert Ward.
The plaintiffs say the executioner position was supposed to be voluntary and not a condition of attaining or maintaining their ranks.
The lawsuits, filed Tuesday, also allege that the plaintiffs, both of Lexington County, reported the display and transmission of pornographic images on a state computer used by then-director of security Michael Sheedy. Sheedy retired this summer and is not named as a defendant.
Baxley maintains that Ward and Ozmint retaliated, violating his free-speech rights.
Bracey is seeking up to $5 million in damages; Baxley is seeking up to $1 million. Both had to take disability retirement this summer, the lawsuits say.
"They're still having extreme difficulties," their attorney, Lewis Cromer, said. "They're doing the best they can to cope with the situation and trying to move on with their lives."
Cromer said he was not aware of any similar lawsuits.
Department of Corrections spokesman Josh Gelinas said, "Anyone can file a lawsuit filled with false allegations, and some lawyers will file anything and send out a press release announcing it."
Bracey, a major of the Division of Security who headed the department's Rapid Response Team which is used for emergencies and prison shakedowns, also performed executions, his lawsuit says.
They claim that working as an executioner was supposed to be "voluntary." Both electrocutions and lethal injections were performed, the lawsuits say.
The men allege they were not trained properly for the executions nor afforded counseling.
When Baxley e-mailed Ozmint about being "forced to be an executioner against his will," Ozmint responded that if "he did not like it, he could transfer," the lawsuit says.
Baxley alleges Sheedy retaliated against him for coming forward and Ozmint responded that if Baxley "was being treated badly by Sheedy, he could do something else."
The two are suing for loss of quality of life, shock, humiliation and embarrassment, and loss of earning capacity, the lawsuits say.