Government & Politics

Third woman claims sexual harassment against Jackson County sheriff’s office

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is the target of a lawsuit filed by an administrative assistant who says she was sexually harassed by co-workers.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is the target of a lawsuit filed by an administrative assistant who says she was sexually harassed by co-workers.

A third female employee of the Jackson County sheriff’s office has filed a discrimination complaint alleging sexual harassment in the workplace.

Administrative assistant Christine L. Lynde’s lawsuit comes a year after the county made the first of two payouts totaling more than $150,000 to settle sexual harassment complaints filed by two former sheriff’s department staffers.

Those allegations were never specified because the county agreed to settle the complaints the women had filed with the Missouri Human Rights Commission before they became lawsuits.

In exchange for the cash settlements, both agreed to resign and sign confidentiality agreements that don’t allow them to talk about the circumstances.

Now comes Lynde, who has filed a lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court that includes details not previously disclosed.

Lynde said she was harassed by the two women who received the settlements, as well as Sheriff Mike Sharp’s second in command, Col. Hugh Mills, and others not named.

Lynde said she began to experience a pattern of sexual harassment shortly after she came to work for the department in September 2013. The hostile atmosphere intensified, she said, after one of the women who later received a settlement accused Lynde of sexually assaulting her at a motel room that fall after a night out drinking.

Although Lynde names the woman in her suit, The Star does not identify people who say they were sexually assaulted unless they volunteer to have their names published.

According to Lee’s Summit police, the woman filed a report accusing Lynde of removing the woman’s shirt and encouraging a male friend to take photographs of her on a bed in a motel room they rented that night.

The woman was unsure what happened next, but she awoke, found her pants had been removed and left the motel. When she told Sharp about the incident, he showed “resentment” toward her, according to the police report.

The woman told police that she believed “this was a result of Lynde and Sheriff Sharp being friends.”

Lynde said she complained to Mills, telling him she was falsely accused by her co-worker, and later she filed a formal complaint.

After that, she said, Mills “retaliated” against her.

“Among other things,” the suit said, “Colonel Mills has called her a ‘strong willed lesbian,’ threatened to write her name and phone number on every men’s bathroom stall, and challenged Lynde’s job duties.”

She also said in the suit that an unnamed male co-worker later made “inappropriate comments” and “touched her inappropriately” and that someone slashed her tires when her vehicle was parked in the sheriff’s department lot in the summer of 2014.

The county denied the allegations in a court filing this month. The sheriff’s department referred requests for comment to the county counselor’s office, which declines to publicly discuss pending litigation.

Lynde declined to comment through her attorney, Bert Braud of the Popham Law Firm.

Lynde still works at the sheriff’s department and is seeking unspecified damages in excess of $25,000, court records said.