City settles lawsuit with former employee for $175,000

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

The city of Lake Charles settled a federal lawsuit late last year with a former employee who leveled a harassment claim against

her supervisor.

The City Council approved a settlement of $175,000 in November, City Attorney Billy Loftin said.

It was the second harassment suit filed against Todd Sherman, the city’s previous assistant director of public works.

Sherman has been out on accrued leave since Jan. 27, but has submitted his resignation, which will take effect April 30, Loftin

said.

In the lawsuit, filed in 2012, the woman claimed that Sherman began making comments about her chest. He also showed her “vulgar

and unnatural pornography on his computer,” she said.

A “pervasive and hostile pattern of sexual harassment” in the city’s Public Works Department was led by Director Mister Edwards,

she claimed.

The woman complained to Edwards as the

city’s harassment policy dictated, but nothing was done, she said.

Edwards and Sherman

began humiliating her by cursing at her, talking down to her and

giving her low marks on performance evaluations, she said.

She said she took the complaint to City Administrator John Cardone, but he told her to talk to Edwards again. She resigned

in July 2011.

The city denied the accusations in a written response. The decision to settle was based on an evaluation of “the facts, the

potential exposure and the cost of litigation,” Loftin said.

“We stand behind our existing sexual

harassment policy, which requires employees to give us timely notice of

any alleged complaints,”

he said.

James Morris, the attorney who represented the woman, declined to comment based on a nondisclosure agreement.

The first lawsuit, filed in May 2010, claimed that Sherman made comments about another woman’s chest and posterior and began

making sexual advances toward her in August 2008.

The woman resigned Feb. 19, 2009, citing sexual harassment in her letter of resignation, the city said.

The woman had filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against another city employee in 2001, claiming the other employee forced

her into a room and sexually assaulted her, according to the trial judge’s opinion.

The woman testified that she reported the incident, but no action was taken, so she did not follow protocol in reporting the

second incident, the opinion said. Instead, she reported Sherman to a friend in human resources, she testified.

The judge dismissed the sexual harassment claim — saying the woman failed to report the situation to proper authorities —

but did award the woman, who has Crohn’s disease, money owed to her under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The city settled with her for $90,000, Loftin said.

An independent investigation was

conducted by the city, including interviews with employees and an audit

of Sherman’s computer,

Loftin said. No wrongdoing was found in the investigation, but

Sherman was given “appropriate disciplinary action” based on

the trial results, he said.