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Former top prosecutor files suit against Denver DA, city, alleging women paid less than men

Adrienne Greene spent 25 years in the office before leaving in February.

DENVER — A former top prosecutor in Denver has filed suit against the district attorney’s office and the city, alleging a years-long practice of paying men higher salaries than women with similar experience and duties, 9Wants to Know has learned.

The suit was filed in Denver District Court by Adrienne Greene, who spent 25 years in the office and rose to the position of senior chief deputy district attorney before leaving – a departure described in the filing as having been “constructively discharged.”

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann and the city, Greene alleged, relied “on a discriminatory pay system” that resulted in her being paid “less than her male counterparts of comparable experience for similar work.” According to the suit, Greene was paid less than male prosecutors at “the same work and experience level since at least 2013.”

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In a written statement, Carolyn Tyler, McCann’s spokeswoman, said that Greene “voluntarily resigned” Jan. 14 and worked at the office through Feb. 11.

“We since have received a copy of the complaint and intend to defend against the allegations, which are inaccurate and without merit,” Tyler said. “As Denver’s District Attorney, Beth McCann has worked hard to create a welcoming and supportive environment for women. The District Attorney’s Office is a place for opportunity and promotion for all genders.”

In a statement, Jacqlin Davis, spokeswoman for the Denver City Attorney’s Office, said the city should not have been named in the suit.

"The District Attorney is a State employee and not an employee of the City and County of Denver," the statement said. "The City was incorrectly named in this complaint and will be moving for dismissal as to the claims against it.”

Greene alleged that the pay disparity began under former District Attorney Mitch Morrissey – according to the suit, between 2010 and 2013 he “gave raises to multiple male district attorneys without doing the same for female district attorneys.”

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“I never gave anybody a raise based on their gender," Morrissey told 9Wants to Know. "And without seeing anything that she’s talking about, going back – what, 12 years – would be hard for me to address in any more detail.”

Morrissey said there were years when he was district attorney that he could not give any raises because he was required to cut the budget.

“She never brought this to my attention while I was the DA," Morrissey said. "I certainly would have listened to any complaint that she had.”

According to the suit, a salary study undertaken in the DA’s office in 2017 showed that female employees were “systematically paid less than male employees.”

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In the suit, Greene contrasted the salaries of herself and another female district attorney with the same male prosecutor over a five-year period:

  • In 2016, a female prosecutor was paid $162,859 while a less-experienced male prosecutor – who had 22 years on the job – was paid $179,719.
  • In 2018, when Greene had 22 years of experience, she was paid $150,381 – less than that same male prosecutor had been paid two years before.
  • In 2021, when Greene reached 25 years of experience, she was paid $175,505 – that same male prosecutor had been paid $191,721 in 2018, when he had 25 years on the job.

Greene also alleged that the DA’s office has been a hostile place for women – that some units “have solely been run by men” all the time she worked there, and that McCann failed to take action against two men accused of harassing women in the office, allowing each to resign after the allegations were reported in the news media.

In addition, according to the suit, Greene alleged she was subjected to “an unfounded internal investigation” purportedly based on a complaint from a victim’s advocate and that McCann asked leading questions during annual evaluations “with the goal of prompting employees to provide negative feedback about plaintiff Greene.”

Greene asserted in the suit that she complained to McCann about the pay disparity in August and again in November but that the district attorney did nothing to remedy it.

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Then in December, Greene obtained the salaries of employees in the DA’s office after filing an open records request – then sent them out in an email “to nearly all attorneys” in the office.

McCann’s response, Greene alleged, was to send a follow-up email to employees that said, in part, “I believe that type of communication is not helpful nor productive, and I don’t think it deserves a lengthy response.” McCann also wrote that she disagreed with Greene’s “assumptions and conclusions.”

The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified financial damages.

Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

This story was produced in partnership with COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative. 9NEWS joined this historic collaboration with more than 40 other newsrooms across Colorado to better serve the public.

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