MOUNT VERNON — “These women aren’t looking for money, they want him (Brian Hess) fired,” said William Curphey, attorney for the six women who have filed a discrimination suit against Emergency Management Director Brian Hess, several county officials and members of the Emergency Management Agency and 9-1-1 boards.
As reported Thursday, the six women, Nicole S. Crabtree, Donna J. Durbin, Leslie R. Orr, Lisa D. Pay, Lisa L. Smith and Patricia L. Stewart, filed the suit Wednesday against Hess, Knox County Sheriff David Barber, Knox County Commissioners Alan Stockberger and Teresa Bemiller, former Commissioner Robert Wise and 9-1-1 Board and EMA Board directors Claude Gates, Robert Shipley, Roger Hite, Barry Bowden, Roger Reed, Richard Mavis, Alan Kitner, Shawn Christy, Jim Hughes, Larry Stimpert, Kelly Brenneman and representatives of Ledman & Teeror LLP, who investigated the allegations against Hess in 2010. Those three are Brandy Dorgan, Jeffrey Stankunas and supervisor Isaac Brent.
Ledman & Teeror is a Columbus law firm that often works for County Risk Sharing Authority, a 60-county risk pool that Knox County belongs to. The firm was retained by the county to conduct the investigation last year, according to Knox County Assistant Prosecutor Chip McConville.
Curphey, a native of Mansfield with a law office in Titusville, Fla., said the county’s failure to adequately respond to allegations of sexual harassment by Hess sends the message that “it’s OK to sexually harass women in Knox County.”
Curphey said a letter was sent to the county offering to settle the complaint out of court, before the suit became public, but that no reply from the county was received. “That left us no option,” he said.
McConville had no comment regarding the settlement offer.
Not much is likely to happen in the suit very soon. Once the county receives notice of the suit, and if it waives a formal delivery of the document by U.S. marshals, it has 60 days to reply. Curphey said the letter notifying the defendants of the suit should arrive early in the week.
The lawsuit makes 12 claims for relief, all but the last being related to the sexual harassment charges. The 12th claims two of the plaintiffs, Orr and Smith lost their jobs or received reduced benefits in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Asked what this section had to do with the sexual harassment claims, Curphey said, “Nothing,” then explained that since under federal court rules, all claims by a plaintiff against a defendant should be handled at one time and so the court would have ordered the separate suits consolidated anyway.
In that claim, Curphey said Orr was dealing with a medical problem covered under the disabilities act, when she was forced to resign or be fired. According to the suit, Smith lost job benefits because of the discrimination.
The sixth claim of the lawsuit alleges the county’s hiring of Hess was negligent because it failed to investigate the reason Hess left the employment of the Mohican Juvenile Correctional Facility. According to documents provided by McConville as part of a public records request, Hess was placed on a paid administrative leave from the facility on Nov. 18, 2005. The document does not state why Hess was being investigated. Four days later, Hess signed a letter of resignation stating “Job opportunity with the Ohio State Highway Patrol” as his reason for quitting.