Sunday, September 5, 2004

Warren Co. judge accused

Adams Co. prosecutor investigating
claim of sexual harassment

By Jennifer Edwards
Enquirer staff writer

LEBANON - The Adams County prosecutor is investigating claims of sexual harassment made by a female employee about a veteran Warren County court judge.

Warren County commissioners appointed David Kelley Friday to investigate allegations against County Court Judge Dallas Powers, Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel and County Commissioner Larry Crisenbery said Saturday.

Crisenberry said it's important to investigate the allegations immediately, especially in light of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed two weeks ago against Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen and the board of county commissioners.

Allen said he had a 31/2 year sexual affair with Rebecca Collins, an assistant prosecutor in his office. Allen called the affair consensual. Collins said her boss coerced her.

"I don't want it to turn into another melee," Crisenbery said of the allegations against Powers. "It may turn out there's nothing there, I don't know ... We didn't want to let that go."

Powers, 69, a Warren County judge since 1988, could not be reached for comment Saturday. He oversees the county court, which covers the rural parts of Warren County, Hamilton Township and Springboro.

The appointment of a lawyer to investigate allegations into Powers came after Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge James Heath reported earlier this month that he had received a complaint from one of the 13 workers in Powers' court, Hutzel said. Twelve of the workers are female, she added.

Hutzel requested an outside investigator to avoid a conflict of interest because her office is responsible for legally representing the county's elected officials.

"The important thing was for the county to get moving on an investigation as quickly as possible to reduce any liability for the county and to make that work environment more comfortable for the employee," she said.

Hutzel would not provide details Saturday. Kelley could not be reached for comment.

Crisenbery said he didn't know specifics and Commissioner Mike Kilburn declined comment.

"I know the claim was this employee was uncomfortable with a sexual situation that was going on there," Hutzel said. "What that ends up entailing in the course of the investigation or what it ends up uncovering in the course of an investigation is another issue."

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