Commonwealth Journal

News Live

May 10, 2014

Third lawsuit against Harris forthcoming

Details of Harris’ alleged harassment of Bray detailed

Somerset — A third sexual harassment lawsuit may be forthcoming against Pulaski County Jailer Mike Harris just as details emerge from a second case that was settled out of court.

On Thursday, Pulaski County officials received a letter from local attorney Robert E. Norfleet stating that he is representing former Pulaski County Detention Center employee Danielle Ivy “on claims including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, assault, battery, etc.”

Ivy is the third former detention center employee to accuse Harris of sexual misconduct and retaliation. Rebecca Moses and current Pulaski County Animal Shelter Director Charlotte Bray each received $137,500 as part of their settlements with the county.

Norfleet represented Bray and Moses in their cases.

Norfleet in his letter, which was obtained Friday by the Commonwealth Journal through an open records request to the county, asks that any communication with Ivy go through his office, and he asks that the letter serve as a notice that they “preserve any and all evidence pertaining to” Ivy and her employment at the detention center.

The letter comes only days after the Commonwealth Journal received a copy of Bray’s complaint, which was drafted by Norfleet but never filed in federal court, obtained through an open records request to the county.

The draft lawsuit stated that Harris’ alleged sexual mistreatment toward Bray began quickly after she was hired as a part-time employee at the detention center in 2008. The complaint alleged that Harris told Bray that his wife was unable to have children and that he “desperately wanted a child,” and he began insisting that Bray “remain in close proximity to him during her limited part-time work hours.”

Soon after, Harris allegedly began making open sexual advances toward Bray — sometimes “pulling her close to him until the length of his body was in contact with hers and grabbing her butt.” According to the drafted complaint, Harris also referred to Bray’s job as “office bunny” and told her she was “hot” and had a “nice ass.”

According to the complaint, Harris also talked critically about his wife to Bray and used her county-provided cellphone “as a leash to track Ms. Bray,” allegedly calling her at all hours for non-official business.

In one alleged incident, Harris texted Bray, asking her to meet him in the boiler room of the detention center for a “kiss.”

“Ms. Bray showed the text to a co-worker and had the co-worker accompany her to the boiler room where (they) discovered ... Harris hiding behind a boiler,” states the complaint. In another alleged incident, Harris tried to kiss  Bray by grabbing her and trying to “forcibly kiss her on the mouth” in front of another person.

The complaint alleged that Harris even presented Bray at the detention center with sexual instruments and inappropriate photos of another woman. The complaint also stated Harris “bragged” to others that he and Bray were in a sexual relationship.

Bray, according to the complaint, rejected Harris’ advances repeatedly, and the complaint claimed Harris fired her in a fit of anger at her refusal to go to his hotel room during a conference. He soon after rehired Bray, but she claimed that he didn’t acknowledge her except to “berate her and give her a disciplinary write-up” over an issue at the detention center that Bray was not responsible for. Her duties were stripped over several months, and she claimed Harris informed her later that she would be transferred to another county position.

Bray began working at the Pulaski County Animal Shelter in February 2011, and she claimed county magistrates and Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock intimidated her into signing a letter of resignation from her detention center position — showing the transfer was voluntary — and protected Harris by not accepting a complaint letter she’d drafted.

For county officials’ statements regarding those allegations, see Sunday’s Commonwealth Journal.

According to the complaint, Ivy, the third woman to bring a case against Harris, was hired after Bray was transferred, and he and Ivy “engaged in a sexual relationship” during her time as a detention center employee.

After Bray’s transfer, she was interviewed as a witness to Harris’ alleged behavior in another case. After she received approval from her then-supervisor, Wesley, to participate in the interview, he allegedly told her that “her employment at PCAS would be terminated if she continued to participate in and/or cooperate with the investigation regarding ... Harris’ abusive and sexually harassing conduct.”

The complaint also alleged that Bray was threatened by Harris through a mutual acquaintance.

Harris allegedly said, through the acquaintance, that “if she ‘doesn’t throw him under the bus, he would not throw her under the bus.’”

In December 2013, Wesley resigned from his position as animal shelter director after he pleaded guilty by information to one count of complicity to tampering with physical evidence, a Class D felony. That charge stemmed from a May 2013 incident in which Wesley and several others took a recording device from Bray’s purse while at the animal shelter. Wesley’s resignation was part of his plea deal, which includes a five-year probated sentence.

For more details on that alleged incident, see Sunday’s Commonwealth Journal.  

The language contained in Bray’s complaint mirrors much of the language found in Moses’ lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in September 2013 and was settled in December 2013.

Moses alleged that Harris sexually harassed her during her tenure at the detention center, which lasted from June 2012 to August 2012. Moses accused Harris of asking that she wear mini-skirts and stilettos to work, of calling her demeaning names, of making sexual advances toward her, and intimidating her when she turned down his advances.

The lawsuit also alleged that Harris had a romantic relationship with one former assistant, and had another employee, now identified as Bray, transferred to the animal shelter when she spurned his sexual advances.

Bray’s complaint stated that she and Moses did not know each other.

 

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