REMINDERVILLE — Both mediation and a trial are scheduled in a civil complaint a former village police officer filed against the village and its police chief alleging sexual harassment and gender and racial discrimination.
In an order filed in Summit County Court of Common Pleas Dec. 17, Judge Joy Malek Oldfield instructed that the case Streetsboro resident Cara Wilson filed this past August be referred to a court mediator on May 18. A Sept. 22 trial is also scheduled in the event that mediation fails.
In a response to the complaint, the village and Chief Jeff Buck denied the allegations. Buck did not return a phone call seeking comment.
“Discovery in this case is ongoing,” said attorney R. Eric Smearman, who is representing the village and Buck. “We are awaiting [information] from plaintiff’s counsel. We will not try the case in the media, but look forward to defending our positions in court. We deny any and all allegations.”
According to the complaint, Wilson was hired as a police officer in July 2017, the only female police department employee at that time.
“We believe that woman should be treated with the same respect and dignity in the work place that any other employee is entitled to,” said Brian Spitz, one of Wilson’s attorneys. “That women need to be safe and under no circumstances should a male in a position of power assert that power in order to make a woman feel the need to engage in sexual activity or feel threatened on the basis of her sex.”
The complaint alleges that Buck sexually harassed Wilson. For example, in April 2018, the same month Wilson passed a final test necessary to be considered for full-time employment, Buck learned that Wilson was dating a police officer with another department, allegedly made negative comments about the relationship, and allegedly commented that if she was “willing to date someone my age,” he would have “tried harder” to have sexual relations with her. Buck then delayed her promotion to full-time status until May 31, 2018, allegedly stating that it was because of her relationship with the other officer.
Buck at one time told Wilson she was in danger of not passing her probationary period due to disciplinary records and citizen complaints. The complaint states, however, that Wilson never received any notices of discipline.
The complaint states that Wilson was held up as an example to other officers and Buck even requested that she agree to be assigned to a drug task force, a choice assignment. But then, just days later, on Dec. 3, 2018, she was fired, allegedly for being in violation of village disciplinary policies.
The complaint alleges that Wilson’s firing was due to her complaints about sexual harassment and gender and racial discrimination, including Buck’s alleged use of the “N-word.”
It further states that a resolution Village Council approved to fire Wilson alleging “unsatisfactory performance, dishonesty, insubordination, discourteous treatment of the public and violations of the police department policies and procedures" as reasons for her firing, was placed in her personnel file, but a written response from Wilson to those allegations was not. The complaint alleges that this caused another department to refuse to hire her as a police officer.
Wilson is claiming she was subjected to a hostile work environment and she was a victim of retaliation. She is requesting that the court order that the village remove or demote all allegedly involved supervisors; establish policies and training to prevent and investigate future issues; and to order the village "to rescind, retract, and/or revoke and remove" the resolution approving her firing. Wilson is also asking for monetary damages and legal costs to be decided by the court.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.