DECATUR — Lawyers must now argue out the damages, attorney’s fees and other compensation owed after a judge rejected an attempt to delay the payment to a former Macon County correctional officer who alleges she was sexually harassed, documents show.
The female ex-employee said she was repeatedly harassed by former Macon County Jail superintendent Tony Brown, who is now sheriff. The woman says she was kissed and fondled by Brown and that he exposed himself to her in incidents between March 2011 and May 2012.
Brown denies the allegations, which he has repeatedly said are without merit. He said he had no comment on the latest developments when contacted Tuesday.
The woman has declined interview requests by the Herald & Review, which does not name accusers of alleged or proven sexual misconduct without their permission.
Documents obtained by the Herald & Review this week through a Freedom of Information Act request show the latest action that has been taken in the case, which is being dealt with by the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
Among other things, the ex-employee is seeking money damages for emotional distress and more than $36,000 in attorney's fees. She also wants Brown ordered to undergo state training to prevent "future civil rights violations."
The case dates from complaints the woman first filed in 2012 against Brown and his employer, the sheriff's office. In 2016, the state commission followed a judge’s recommendation to dismiss the woman's complaint against Brown. The judge found the woman not credible in her accusations of a hostile work environment, and he also recommended that the commission dismiss her complaint against the sheriff's office.
But a three-commissioner panel ruled May 9 that the judge was wrong to recommend dismissing the case against the sheriff's office, calling the findings "against the manifest weight of the evidence." The panel ordered an administrative law judge to determine damages and expenses owed to the ex-employee.
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The lawyer for the sheriff's office, Willilam W. Kurnik, replied by asking the full commission — all 13 commissioners — to re-hear the case and overturn the three-member panel’s decision. Kurnik, who could not be reached for comment on this story, further argued there was no point paying damages now if there’s a chance the case will be overturned by the full commission.
But Administrative Law Judge Michael R. Robinson said there is nothing in the commission’s rules that would allow for putting off the issue of settling damages. In a ruling dated June 25, Robinson denied Kurnik’s request for a “stay of proceedings” and ordered Kurnik to file a response to demands for fees and costs submitted by the ex-employee’s lawyer.
The woman’s attorney, Bradley Wilson, filed a claim dated June 6 that seeks $36,600 in legal fees. That works out at 183 hours of work done at the rate of $200 an hour.
He has also asked for reimbursement of costs in the amount of $3,629.13 in paperwork that only deals with legal expenses so far in the case. Wilson did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
On her own behalf, the former employee asked for damages to compensate for her “embarrassment, humiliation, insult and emotional suffering” caused by the harassment. She has said that amount is $35,000. She also wants an order directing the sheriff and his office to “cease and desist from discrimination on the basis of sexual harassment in their employment practices.”
In addition to having all attorney's fees and costs paid, the woman's initial complaint lays out several other conditions she wants in any settlement: all "public contracts" that the sheriff's office holds with the state should terminate immediately and it should be barred from holding those contracts for up to three years.
She also said a penalty should be assessed for "any profit earned" by the sheriff's office as a "direct result of this civil rights violation" and that money be paid to the State Treasurer.