Commission supports claim of sexual harassment
Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson "created a sexually tainted work environment" for two county workers, a federal agency has determined.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined there was reasonable cause that Johnson sexually harassed Marisa Tusa and Kelly McMahon, who formerly worked in Johnson's District 3 office in Lake Havasu City.
Tusa and McMahon each received determination letters from the commission dated Aug.
They filed federal complaints in spring 2002 and subsequently were transferred to other county jobs.
The county investigated the matter, although Johnson is exempt from personnel regulations because he is an elected official.
Tusa, who said Tuesday that Johnson "is still harassing us to this day," said she wants him out of public office "so he will quit abusing public county resources and county funds."
Johnson, contacted Tuesday, said he would have been cleared of harassment allegations had Tusa and McMahon pursued the matter with a civil suit.
He said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should not have become involved because, under federal regulations, Tusa and McMahon were not considered employees and therefore did not have legal standing to file complaints because they were chosen to work by an elected official.
The commission's determination states that Johnson - listed as the respondent: "County of Mohave Board of Supervisors" - discriminated against Tusa and McMahon in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act when he subjected them to a sexually harassing environment.
The investigation revealed that Johnson, who was the women's immediate supervisor, asked them to view pornographic pictures and videos on an office computer.
He also "frequently engaged in sexual conversation with them" and gave them "sexual gifts and cards at the office."
Because Tusa and McMahon used the county's sexual harassment policy, the commission ruled, they should have been protected against retaliatory actions.
Instead, the commission's letter states, when McMahon complained of sexual harassment, she was subjected to a hostile work environment by having her private life videotaped and was constructively transferred to a different position, according to the commission.
Tusa was placed on involuntary administrative leave within a few days of complaining about sexual harassment and was then "constructively transferred to a different position."
The investigation revealed "there is reason to believe that violations have occurred, and that informal methods of conciliation be tried in an attempt to eliminate the "alleged unlawful practices."
Tusa, previously known as Marisa Bopp, said the commission's findings were fair.
"With all the evidence that was presented to the EEOC I don't see how they could have ruled any other way," she said.
"I would be willing to sit down and discuss remedies with him (Johnson).
I don't really know what the process is.
"First and foremost we want him out of our lives, because he is still harassing us to this day."
Johnson said he regrets that the county is now involved in actions between him and his two former employees.
"The county did nothing to defend themselves," Johnson said.
"I would love to have the ladies sue me, rather than go through the county.
But the girls filed a letter with EEOC and EEOC never investigated.
"They never asked me anything."
Johnson said he has hired a "well-respected attorney" and that the EEOC should not have been involved in the first place.
Title VII, subsection f of the Civil Rights Act states that the term "employee" does not apply to any person elected to public office or any person chosen by such officer for a personal staff.
A copy of the subsection was faxed by Johnson's office to the Miner.
Johnson said that because one if not both women were chosen for their positions, they do not fit the definition of an employee under EEOC guidelines.
Johnson said he has been cleared in court of the videotaping allegation by McMahon.
"The county has the ability to settle the suit without insurance for up to $100,000," he said of any legal action against the county that could be taken by Tusa or McMahon.
"I think the county will pay out to discredit me."
Mohave County Attorney Bill Ekstrom said Johnson is putting his own "spin" on the situation.
"The county government has acted properly," Ekstrom said.
"He is the one that is charged with harassment, not the county."
However, Ekstrom added, because Johnson works for the county, the county "could have vicarious liability" for the actions of its employee."
The commission summed up the best-case scenario: "If an agreement is reached by all parties, the written conciliation agreement will be signed by all parties, binding on all parties, and the matter will end."
However, if conciliation fails the women will be given a "right to sue letter," Ekstrom said.
He said the case had been turned over to the state Attorney General's Office before it was referred to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
McMahon said she just wants the entire matter settled as quickly as possible.
"But knowing Buster the way I do I doubt it is going to happen," McMahon said.
"The man needs to accept responsibility for his actions."