Lexington’s human rights commission is investigating longtime Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn for alleged sexual harassment.
Ray Sexton, executive director of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, confirmed Wednesday there is an ongoing investigation of Ginn.
The complaint came to the commission in December and is still in its beginning stages, he said. An investigation by the commission typically takes about 180 days.
WKYT first reported Tuesday that Ginn has also been investigated by the city’s human resources department. In a Nov. 15 memo posted on WKYT’s website, the city substantiated six of 13 allegations against Ginn after an investigation that began in June. However, the city found that the coroner is an elected county-wide official and the city’s human resource department does not have “authority to direct the coroner or his employees” regarding best practices.
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“Mr. Ginn has demonstrated numerous acts of varied behavior that is unprofessional,” the investigation found. “It is clear from the investigation that the use of sexual innuendo, banter of a sexual nature and inappropriate comments are pervasive in the coroner’s office.”
The name of the woman who brought the allegations to city officials was redacted from the report, but WKYT reports the allegations were made by Melissa Neale, a former coroner employee who left the office in June. The television station reports that Neale now works as a private contractor for the U.S. Army.
Ginn said Wednesday that he has already made changes in his office.
“This is an ongoing investigation and it’s very inappropriate for me to make a comment at this time,” Ginn said. “I’ve had a staff meeting with all the folks here and we have talked about sexual harassment and the culture of the office. We have done that and we are going to take a sexual harassment course through human resources through LFUCG. That’s for everyone, including myself.”
The substantiated allegations involved inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, including:
▪ He referred to a male individual on TV as having “pink c---sucker lips.”
▪ He repeatedly referred to the act of sex as “he played a little boodle in the cane patch”
▪ He repeatedly made comments about the body parts of female anchors on the Today Show.
▪ He told inappropriate jokes to a female deputy, including “what did the blind man say when he passed a fish market? Hello, Ladies.”
▪ He referred to a marijuana pipe as a penis.
▪ When a female speaker at a conference fluffed out her dress before sitting down, he said “she’s airing it out boys.”
Four of the six allegations were substantiated after Ginn admitted to making the comments.
Ginn told city human resource officials that he allowed “salty language.” The report recommended Ginn develop policies that would address these behaviors and train employees.
Larry Owens, a retired deputy coroner, has filed to run against Ginn in November. Ginn was first elected coroner in 2002.
He makes $72,930 a year. The total budget for the coroner’s office is $1.1 million.
In 2015, Ginn lost his job as director of the University of Kentucky body bequeathal program after an audit found numerous problems with its administration and oversight, including a three-to five-year delay in burying the remains of people who had given their bodies for scientific research. Ginn had served as the director of that program at the same time he served as coroner.
In 2014, a city ethics investigation was dropped that alleged Ginn was receiving a full-time salary while also working his second job at UK. The commission did not disclose why the investigation of Ginn was dropped. Owens, who ran against Ginn in 2014, had filed the ethics complaint.
Sexton said the city’s human rights commission can investigate Ginn and any elected official.
“We don’t make any distinction between a private employer or an elected office,” Sexton said.
If a hearing officer finds Ginn guilty of sexual harassment, he can be fined.