Clinton County investigating disappeared files, stillborn inquiries into alleged discrimination and harassment

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By Liam Tiernan
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

ST. JOHNS — The Clinton County Board of Commissioners is currently investigating allegations that employees of the commissioner’s office have been violating the Clinton County Employee non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy.

According to the official statement of the Board of Commissioners, made in an open meeting in February, records of several instances of sexual harassment in the office dating as far back as 2007 have “suspiciously disappeared.”

In addition to this, several employees have come forward with statements that allege harassment forms submitted to the office of the personnel director, where reports of harassment in the workplace are supposed to be submitted, were simply never followed up with any kind of administrative action.

“I was sexually harassed by a male coworker in September,” said Molly Davis, employee of the Commissioner’s office for 15 years before the incident. “Immediately afterward, I submitted a sexual assault report to the personnel director’s office. After three months, no actions had been taken.

“In those three months I submitted four more reports to the office. When two weeks had passed after I sent the fifth report, I knew something was very, very wrong.”

Currently, the investigation is focused on determining whether or not the misplacement of the reports is intentional as well as determining what parties are responsible for the lack of action in Davis’ case as well as six other cases of similar nature.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure that we get answers,” said Brian Thompson, assistant to the Clinton County Administrator’s office. “ Not only for the victims, but for the integrity of our offices and the safety of our employees.”

Davis no longer works as an employee of the office. In late January, she retired from the office and has since worked with the board as a citizen assisting the investigation.

The Clinton County non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy states that “The County will investigate all complaints of harassment promptly, thoroughly and discreetly, with the degree of confidentiality necessary for proper resolution of the complaint.”

“The non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy is designed to protect employees of the county from workplace sexual harassment, racism, sexism, and other forms of bullying,” said Kim Kinblom, one of the original authors of the policy. “It also outlines the county’s equal opportunity employment policy and directs victims or observers of harassment in the workplace to people who can help correct the issue as well as forms to submit to those officials.”

Louisiana State University professor Sunyoung Park studies social interactions in the workplace and how they affect the workplace as a whole.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is a very serious problem all across the country, especially for women, although it does occur towards men,” said Park.

“Regardless of the gender of the attacker or the victim, or the actions of the attacker, whether it is actual sexual contact or just verbal harassment, sexual harassment can be very damaging to an individual as well as the workplace as a whole.

“In instances where the overseers of the workplace are lax in their enforcement of sexual harassment policy sexual harassment in that particular workplace or even to that specific individual may increase.”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 44 percent of women and 19 percent of men who work government jobs have experienced unwanted sexual attention or have been the victims of acts of sexual harassment.

In a 2013 special report by the Department of Justice, 2.9 percent of government employees become the victims of rape or sexual assault in the workplace.

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