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Boone County councilman, county government named in federal sexual misconduct lawsuit

Missing Gavel
Posted at 8:59 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 08:04:59-04

BOONE COUNTY — A Boone County councilman and the Boone County Board of Commissioners are being sued as part of a federal lawsuit surrounding sexual misconduct against a female county employee, records show.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana, names both Councilman Aaron Williams and the board as defendants. It alleges Williams repeatedly sexually harassed a female county employee from April to September 2021 and the board failed to take appropriate action in response.

Williams and the board were served summons Thursday, court records show.

The lawsuit goes on to say Williams engaged in retaliatory behavior against the employee after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint against him, including removing her from duties on the Boone County Compensation Committee and treating her in a "negative and hostile manner."

According to the lawsuit, the harassment began in April 2021 during the employee's introduction to Williams. It claims he told her she "look(ed) like (her) father, only pretty."

It continued into the summer of that year, as Williams made inappropriate comments and called the employee on her work cell phone "approximately twice per week" between June and August, the lawsuit claims. It says Williams told her in one of the calls, "he wanted to keep their 'friendship' a secret.

On other occasions, Williams told the employee he was "going to get in the shower," adding "I am sure you don't want to hear that"; implied he wanted her to take off her pants and show him her legs; and asked her personal questions about her marriage, the lawsuit alleges.

It also claims Williams tried to see down the employee's shirt, asked her in front of a coworker if she had a "secret boyfriend", and brushed his arm against hers more than once after she moved away from him during a memorial service.

The employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against Williams in September 2021. Afterward, the board instructed Williams "not to engage in any retaliatory conduct toward (the employee)," which he failed to comply with, the lawsuit alleges.

Williams removed the employee from her duties on the compensation committee two days after the complaint was filed, according to the lawsuit.

During a November County Council meeting, the employee requested Williams be removed from the committee and have no supervisory authority over the Human Resources budget. In response, Boone County dissolved the committee, which led to Williams having increased control over budget-related matters, including the employee's pay, the lawsuit alleges.

"Boone County failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action to protect (the employee) from an individual known to be sexually harassing her," the lawsuit claims. "On information and Belief, Boone County issued stern warnings to Williams and the County Council, stressing that unprofessional conduct by Williams will not be tolerated. Despite any such warnings, Williams has continued to create a hostile work environment for (the employee)."

The lawsuit also alleges the following:

  • Williams "humiliated (the employee) in front of a vendor
  • The entire compensation project was taken from the employee, then given back to her, which resulted in her having to work overtime to complete the project on time.
  • The employee was left out of conversations she would have been included in before she submitted the sexual harassment complaint.
  • Members of the county council and commissioners board told the employee she shouldn't present her own items at meetings and should have commissioners do it for her.
  • The employee was removed from the county council's agenda when she tried to ask for full-time help due to her having to work overtime.
  • Williams questioned the employee "in a hostile manner" when asked the council for part-time help in her office.
  • Williams "attempted to undermine (her) request by calling up other elected officials to stand against her".
  • Williams tried to have the hourly pay rate for a new part-time position requested by the employee set at $12.33 to prevent any hires.
  • Williams told the employee she is not eligible to be compensated for the extra hours she worked.

The lawsuit seeks relief for compensatory damages, including financial losses and legal fees, as well as damages for the employee's emotional distress.

Coverdale Consulting, a marketing consulting firm based in Fishers, provided the following statement on the board of commissioners' behalf:

“The Boone County Commissioners have been made aware of a recent claim filed in federal court. At this time, we have not had the opportunity to completely review the complaint and so we can not comment upon the merits of the allegations. The Boone County Commissioners have always been and will continue to be supportive of all county employees.”

A previous statement from the firm states, "The Boone County Council is aware of the recent claim filed in federal court, and we are in the process of reviewing the allegations made in the complaint. It is our policy to make no comment concerning pending litigation."

As of Thursday, a jury trial in the case had yet to be scheduled.