Commonwealth Journal

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May 3, 2014

Another case against jailer settled

County pays out $137,500 to settle second sexual harassment case against jailer Mike Harris

Somerset — The second of two sexual harassment cases brought against Pulaski County Jailer Mike Harris has been settled out of court for more than $137,000.

Charlotte Bray, the current director of the Pulaski County Animal Shelter, received $137,500 as part of an out-of-court settlement reached between her and Pulaski County officials in a sexual harassment case that reaches back to 2013.

Bray filed a complaint in early 2013 with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging discrimination and sexual retaliation.

Although details of that case weren’t revealed, on Friday a press release from Robert Norfleet, who is representing Bray, stated that the EEOC case had been against Harris and other county officials. Norfleet in the press release said the EEOC in February issued a notice of right to sue, effectively clearing the way for Bray to seek a judgment against Harris in federal court.

The lawsuit was slated to be lodged against Harris, the Pulaski County Animal Shelter, former animal shelter director Darren Wesley, current animal shelter employee Jimmie Jones and former animal shelter employee Nathan Epperson. Allegations against the defendants included retaliation, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and more, according to Norfleet’s statement.

The settlement was reached after Norfleet submitted a 30-page draft complaint to the defendants. An open records request was sent after business hours Friday to Pulaski County officials seeking more information on the draft complaint.

Norfleet stated through the press release that Harris had “systematically abused his position and authority” as jailer.

“It is also apparent that the Pulaski County Fiscal Court, with full knowledge of (Harris’) ... conduct, ignored, overlooked, protected, and otherwise condoned” Harris’ alleged conduct.

The $137,500 offer to Bray is the same settlement amount offered to Rebecca Moses, a former Pulaski County Detention Center employee who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Harris and fiscal court in Sept. 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 transferred to the animal shelter when she spurned his sexual advances.

Bray was transferred from the detention center to the animal shelter in 2011, allegedly after she “refused (Harris’) sexual advances,” according to a statement from Bray released through Norfleet.

Moses’ lawsuit was settled in December 2013.

Bray has been working as director at the animal shelter since mid-December 2013 after former director Wesley resigned. In a strange twist, Wesley in February 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, including Jones and Epperson — both charged with misdemeanors — took a recording device from Bray’s purse while at the animal shelter. The group allegedly attempted to listen to the recorder, then turned it in to Somerset Police Department, claiming Bray had committed a crime. Instead, they were faced with theft and tampering charges. Wesley’s resignation was part of his plea deal, which includes a five-year probated sentence.

“I am pleased with the terms of the settlement and the fact that the matter is now resolved,” Bray said in the statement. “I look forward to moving on with my life and continuing my work at the Pulaski County Animal Shelter in peace and stability.”

A message left Saturday on Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield’s cell phone seeking comment was not returned by press time.

 

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