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City settles lawsuit with former employee for $175,000

Last Modified: Friday, March 07, 2014 11:49 PM

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.

Posted By: Gizmo On: 3/14/2014

Title: Jail time

If that were me or you as regular citizens there would be jail time involved with this one is the problem here is something wrong with the whole situation. Hi paid management people above the law to let management officials walk away And resign from their office it is wrong. If that was your daughter or your wife how would you feel. People citizens of the city we need to start checking this out and really getting more involved in this situation. ... My thoughts as a citizen of Lake Charles thank you very much.. Gizmo.

Posted By: Dwight On: 3/10/2014

Title: Who would the judge have been

Since this was a Federal Law suit, who would have heard the case? Hmm. Could the the winking at the DWI have been an attempt to curry favor?
Who was the judge in the first case?

Posted By: T2x3f On: 3/9/2014

Title: Concerned

The City of Lake Charles residents need to get an accounting of what city attorneys for the City were paid. There was one hired who was not on staff and made several thousand dollars. This is where the dollars add up not to mention these women who lost their jobs. Mayor Roach, Mister Edwards and John Cardone should be gone. They could of stopped this.

Posted By: A Very Disappointed Citizen On: 3/8/2014

Title: What Is He Talking About?

"The city denied the accusations in a written response." Then a statement from Billy Loftin, "The decision to settle was based on an evaluation of the facts...". Am I missing something? If not on the facts, then on what basis does the city deny the accusations? I can't believe our MAYOR IS DOING NOTHING!! Who is watching out for the taxpayers? Certainly not him!

Posted By: A Disappointed Citizen On: 3/8/2014

Title: Who Is In Charge Here?

What is going to happen to Edwards and Cardone? I know, the same thing that is going to happen to the Chief of Police for letting DUI Offenders off on Open Container charges. Our mayor needs to take control of his administration and if he doesn't, the City Council should demand action! Billy Loftin states, "We stand behind our existing sexual harassment policy..." The policy may be a good policy, however if it is not enforced, it is worthless. Seems like it took the Mayor a long time to report the outcome of this lawsuit. I wonder how many other Sexual Harassment Lawsuits are pending. One other thing. I have two questions for Billy Loftin. We all know if the American Press had not stepped in, Minaldi would have gotten off with no DUI Charges. If Minaldi had gotten off and then killed someone's child while "Driving Under the Influence" the following month, could the City of Lake Charles have been held partially liable for not taking the appropriate action? Even if the answer is no, here is my second question. If Minaldi had killed someone's child the following month, would the Mayor and Chief of Police been morally liable for the child's death?

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