The Urban County Government is on the hook for more than $200,000 in attorney fees in a sexual harassment case at the Fayette County Detention Center after a judge refused to overturn a jury verdict against the city.
Fayette Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael, in a final judgment filed Thursday, granted almost all of the fees requested by the attorneys of Charlotte Trotter, a jail employee who claimed that she was sexually harassed on the job by her boss, Maj. Michael Korb.
Trotter's attorney, Shane Sidebottom, initially requested $203,418 in court fees, according to court documents. Ishmael reduced that amount by $2,720 after reviewing a lengthy bill submitted by Sidebottom. The judge granted a total of $200,698 for all costs incurred through Thursday, which does not include the cost of fees from possible future appeals.
The city can now choose to settle the case or appeal. However, if the appeal fails, the city would probably have to pay additional attorney fees.
City spokeswoman Susan Straub said she could not comment on the case because "the decision on whether to appeal has not been made."
Trotter sued Korb, former jail director Ronald Bishop and the Urban County Government in 2009, claiming that Korb sexually harassed her and touched her breast. She also said Bishop and the city failed to take corrective action against Korb and that she was retaliated against for reporting the abuse.
A jury awarded Trotter $60,000 in a split verdict when the case went to trial in March. Jurors found no evidence that Korb touched Trotter's breast. But they found by majority vote that Korb sexually harassed Trotter; that his conduct was "so severe and pervasive" that it interfered with her work; and that the harassment affected Trotter's psychological well-being, according to court documents.
Jurors determined that the city did not promptly conduct an investigation into the alleged harassment, but found no evidence that Trotter was a victim of retaliation.
After the trial, the city filed a motion asking the judge to set aside the verdict and judgment or grant a new trial.
Ishmael denied the city's motions Thursday. The city had unsuccessfully claimed that the judge erred by refusing to allow evidence that Korb was given a polygraph test, according to court documents.
Historically, the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled polygraph results are inadmissible in criminal cases. However, the city claimed that it would not have revealed the polygraph results. Rather, evidence that the test was taken, the city said, would have strengthened the city's position that it investigated the case thoroughly.
Ishmael said introduction of the polygraph test would have caused "rampant speculation" among jurors. The judge said jurors would likely have assumed that Korb passed the test, since he remained employed at the detention center, the document said.
"The court has wrestled with this issue and notes that this may be an issue for the appellate courts in the sexual harassment investigation context," Ishmael wrote.
Reached by phone Friday, Sidebottom said he was pleased by the judgment.
"This was a hard-fought case, and I appreciate the jury and the judge really looking at the issues," he said. "Unfortunately, we were placed in a situation where we had to try this case, and (Trotter) is happy that she was ultimately vindicated."