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Loftin: Officials adhered to complaint policy

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 10:57 AM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

According to the city of Lake Charles sexual harassment policy, when is the mayor notified of a harassment allegation?

The article on the sexual harassment case in the American Press on Saturday, March 8, says City Administrator John Cardone sent the woman making the complaint back to one of the people she made allegations against, Mister Edwards, to work this out.

Was this proper policy procedure? If not, was Cardone disciplined? Todd Sherman resigned, but was Edwards disciplined?

During Mayor Randy Roach’s time in office, how many sexual harassment allegations have be filed?

Under the city’s policy, sexual harassment claims may be reported to the worker’s department head, the city attorney or the human resources director, said Billy Loftin, Lake Charles city attorney.

The city’s legal department investigates the claims, and the mayor is notified “during the investigation when appropriate and before disciplinary action is taken,” Loftin said.

The city’s policy was validated by the court when the first of the two harassment suits mentioned in the original story went to trial, he said. The sexual harassment claim in that suit, filed in May 2010, was thrown out by the judge, who said the plaintiff didn’t properly report the allegations.

The first that city officials heard of the harassment claim, Loftin said, was in the plaintiff’s letter of resignation, submitted in February 2009. Officials were similarly taken by surprise by the second woman’s allegations, he said.

“Neither the mayor nor the appropriate city officials for reporting sexual harassment were aware that the plaintiff in the second suit had a sexual harassment complaint until she testified as a witness in the first case,” Loftin wrote in an email.

“At that time she had resigned several months earlier. She admitted at trial that she never made a claim of sexual harassment before she left the city. In fact, in her letter of resignation, she indicated she enjoyed working for the city and was pursuing other employment opportunities.”

In her lawsuit, filed in 2012, the woman claimed that she reported harassment by then-Assistant Public Works Director Todd Sherman — accused in the first suit as well — to Mister Edwards, the department head, but that nothing was done. She said she then reported the harassment to City Administrator John Cardone.

But Loftin said that Edwards and Cardone “filed affidavits in that case indicating that her complaint to them was related to the supervision of her job performance by Mr. Sherman.”

“Under city policy those types of employee complaints are referred to the department head for review,” Loftin wrote in his email. “It was the city’s position that the procedure followed was in accordance with city policy and therefore no disciplinary action was necessary.”

The city settled the suit with the first plaintiff for $90,000 and settled the suit with the second plaintiff for $175,000. Sherman resigned, effective April 30.

Since Mayor Randy Roach took office in 2000, Loftin said, the city has received five other sexual harassment complaints from city employees and one from a private citizen.

Parish, port, board: No suits in 10 years

How many sexual harassment lawsuits have been filed against the Calcasieu Police Jury, the Port of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu School Board in the last 10 years?

Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said no such suits have been filed against the Police Jury in the last 10 years. Port Director Bill Rase and school system spokeswoman Kirby Smith said the same holds true for the port and the School Board.

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com.

Posted By: cttcg On: 3/19/2014

Title: Wow

Too bad for the city. This actually makes the mayor look bad. Ultimately he will take the fall for this.

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