Burgin mayor accused of hitting city employee on her behind

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comAugust 30, 2013 

A Burgin city employee filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit Thursday against the city and Mayor Dale Turner, alleging that he hit her on her behind and made inappropriate comments.

Among the allegations in Jacqueline Taylor's lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Lexington is that Turner called a city office telling Taylor and another woman in the office that he was returning to the office, and they "better be naked" when he got there.

In response to the lawsuit, the mayor said in a telephone interview Friday, "There has already been an inquiry on it and I am not at liberty to comment on it."

Turner referred questions to Burgin City Attorney J. Thomas Hensley, who did not immediately return telephone calls Friday.

Taylor, reached at city offices Friday, declined to comment, as did her attorney, Rheanne Dodson Falkner.

Burgin, in Mercer County, had a population of 965 in 2010, according to the Kentucky State Data Center.

Taylor, of Harrodsburg, said in the lawsuit that she was an assistant city water clerk and had been a city employee for five years.

The lawsuit says Taylor's work environment changed when Dale Turner took over as mayor in 2011.

Taylor alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment in the form of sexual comments when Turner came into the office. The sexual harassment evolved into unwanted physical touching in 2012, when he "slapped her on her rear end," according to the lawsuit.

Taylor said in the lawsuit that she didn't meet with the mayor outside of work functions or act in any way to warrant the alleged conduct.

In addition to the unwanted touching, the lawsuit said, Turner made several inappropriate comments in the workplace.

Turner also allegedly told Taylor that he would like to go on a houseboat alone with her. The lawsuit said Turner knew that Taylor was "happily married."

Beginning in 2012, Turner inappropriately touched Taylor twice in the office, and there were witnesses both times, the lawsuit said. In one case, she was standing at the copy machine with her back turned. In the second case, Turner followed her "into a storage room and slapped her on the rear end," the lawsuit stated.

Taylor also alleged that uninvited, Turner put his arm around her shoulder when she became upset that the two of them had a disagreement over her "comp pay."

Taylor alleges that she felt extremely uncomfortable in the workplace, and she notified her direct supervisor, the city clerk, of the sexual hostile environment created by Turner.

The city clerk reported the issues to the city attorney, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit did not name the city clerk or the city attorney, but in a telephone interview Thursday, city clerk Michelle Russell confirmed that she reported the information to city attorney J. Thomas Hensley.

The city attorney did not notify anyone else in the office about the inappropriate behavior, the lawsuit said, and the inappropriate behavior did not stop after the report to the city attorney.

Taylor said she "took it upon herself" to meet with the city council, whose members told Taylor they would need to conduct an investigation, the lawsuit said.

Taylor submitted a complaint to city officials on Nov. 12, 2012, including allegations that Turner made inappropriate comments and subjected her to unwelcome touching.

The lawsuit said the city attorney responded to Taylor on Dec. 18 on behalf of the city council, saying her allegations were without merit. Some current and former council members are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said that on Jan. 6, city officials were notified that Taylor had retained a lawyer and was filing the court action. The lawsuit alleges that a sexually hostile workplace environment violates the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

Taylor said in the lawsuit that she was subjected to intimidation, ridicule and sexual insults that were severe and pervasive, and that she had sought therapy.

Taylor is asking in the lawsuit for unspecified compensation for damages she incurred and for punitive damages.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears

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