Sexual harassment charges filed against sheriffBy PAT BROWN,
Charges of sexual harassment have been filed against Simpson County Sheriff Donald O’Cain.
The charges were filed in federal court as part of an EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Claim.
The charge comes from former employee Nancy Smith, who was a dispatcher in the Sheriff’s Department, where she started working in August 2016.
The case states that the sheriff had been “hugging” the plaintiff on several occasions in October. The behavior then became “frontal and invasive.” The case claims that in November the sheriff kissed her on the lips.
Smith’s case also claims that in January of 2017 the sheriff grabbed her from behind and put his arms around her chest. She also claimed that she smelled alcohol.
The suit claims that on March 30, 2017, the sheriff hugged Smith and kissed her on the cheek in front of another employee.
According to the complaint, she told her fiance about the behavior, and he reported it to Eric Bowen with the county’s human resources office. The boyfriend said he was told that nothing could be done because the sheriff was elected. On April 20, 2017, Smith submitted her resignation.
In addition to naming the sheriff individually, Smith’s complaint also names Simpson County as a defendant in the case.
No monetary amount was spelled out; however, Smith is seeking back wages and reinstatement, compensatory wages, punitive damages, attorney fees, costs and expenses and other relief.
O’Cain has responded to the charges, saying, “This person has made accusations that are totally false and unfounded. This has been looked at by attorneys in Jackson who handle the county Board of Supervisors’ legal matters. They have investigated and interviewed people and checked the facts, and they have found no validity to her charges.”
O’Cain added that he is “disappointed” in WLBT, the Jackson TV station that broke the story in a January 1 newscast.
“They have some young whippersnapper reporters up there who made false accusations against me,” he said.
The sheriff added that he has not talked to, bothered or harassed Smith and doesn’t think the suit will “get to first base.”
He said, “I gave her a chance at the dispatcher’s job, but she didn’t work out. I was going to fire her, but she saved herself from getting fired by quitting. Now she’s just looking for some free money from the county. It’s a scam, and she’s a scammer.”
The charges were filed on December 13, 2017.