Friday, October 1, 2004

Warren court worker says demotion unfair

Gerondale part of investigation into allegations against Judge Powers

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

LEBANON - A Warren County Court employee who was demoted this week says she is being treated unfairly as the investigations into her former boss' alleged misconduct continue.

Under a public records request, county commissioners on Thursday released eight pages they had received from Libbie Gerondale and her lawyer, Bill Kaufman.

"Ms. Gerondale's work environment had become intolerable as a result of the apparent acrimony directed to her from her fellow employees and her supervisor," Kaufman wrote to Judge James Heath, who is overseeing court employee issues while Judge Dallas Powers remains on a voluntary paid leave.

County commissioners held a closed-door meeting after receiving the documents, but took no action. Commission President Pat South said commissioners advised Gerondale to discuss her concerns with an investigator from the Adams County Prosecutor's Office, which is involved in the investigation.

Five female court employees filed sexual harassment complaints against Powers, 70. Several allege employees saw Powers and Gerondale in sexual contact in the office. Gerondale, testifying in a case that involved her nephew last week, denied any unusual relationship with Powers.

Heath demoted Gerondale from probation officer to probation clerk in a letter dated Tuesday, citing unexcused absences.

However, Kaufman said Gerondale had not received the letter in the mail until Thursday.

Kaufman said Gerondale had faxed a doctor's excuse to the court for one absence last Friday. Then on Monday, Gerondale went to her doctor, "who suggested that because of her emotional condition that she apply for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act," Kaufman wrote.

She filled out forms and advised her supervisor, Dick Kilburn, about that application, Kaufman said. Kaufman asked Heath to reconsider his demotion of Gerondale. But he declined, Kaufman said.

Kaufman said he intended to refer Gerondale to a specialist in employment law "for whatever action may be appropriate on her behalf."

Meanwhile, Gerondale alleges that a female co-worker had touched her inappropriately and made her feel uncomfortable.

She also alleges that she believed a court employee was attempting to influence her testimony in her nephew's court case.

Erica Solvig contributed. E-mail

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