Defendants in OEM lawsuit respond

The county officials named in a federal lawsuit regarding alleged sexual harassment by the Office of Emergency Management director said in a court document filed last month that they each acted reasonably to resolve the issue.

 

OEM employees Julie Woodward and Mary Johnson filed the complaint against OEM Director Shelia Bellott, Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker and County Administrator Tom Anderson on Oct. 19.

Attorneys with the Rainwater, Holt and Sexton law firm represent the defendants and submitted an answer to the complaint on Nov. 13 stating: “Separate Faulkner County Defendants exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior and/or the Plaintiffs unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.”

Both parties have requested a jury trial in the pending lawsuit.

The initial investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Bellott ensued after the OEM employees contacted Deputy County Attorney Whitney Doolittle about inappropriate talk and incidents involving Bellott.

Doolittle and County Attorney David Hogue conducted a three-week investigation before presenting their findings to Baker, who had to decide what disciplinary action to take.

Baker was advised to fire Bellott but instead transferred her physical office away from the four employees and directed her not to speak with OEM employees except Chief Deputy Director Tyler Lachowsky and not to talk about anything sexual at work.

Initially Baker told Bellott to work from home but later decided to relocate her to an office in the Old Courthouse on Locust Avenue, which is more than five miles away from the Office of Emergency Management building located on Acklin Gap Road.

 

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