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Sat, April 20

Walker wants state probe of Johnson claims

Mohave County Manager Ron Walker wants the County Attorney's office and the Arizona Attorney General's office to investigate allegations by county Supervisor Buster Johnson of improper behavior by fellow supervisors Pete Byers and Tom Sockwell, Walker and two county employees.

In a Lake Havasu City newspaper, Johnson was quoted as accusing Walker, Byers and Sockwell of promoting the sexual harassment grievance filed by two of Johnson's former employees, saying the county was offering the two women "easy money."

County employees Marisa Tusa, formerly Marisa Bopp, and Kelly McMahon filed sexual harassment grievances against Johnson in 2002, when they worked in Johnson's District 3 Lake Havasu City office.

Walker on Friday said Johnson's allegations "go far beyond routine political rhetoric and cannot be disregarded by appropriate legal authorities."

At the board of supervisors meeting Monday, the three supervisors will vote on an agenda item submitted by Walker that would direct an investigation into Johnson's claim.

Johnson was quoted as saying he believes that the grievance investigation conducted by the Mohave County Human Resources Department in 2002 was handled improperly.

"When I asked for a full and impartial investigation (of the sexual harassment charges), it fell on deaf ears," Johnson said Friday.

"But now that Mr.

Walker is upset and fingers are pointed at him, he is now requesting an investigation."

Tusa, at the time an administrative assistant in Johnson's office, and McMahon, an office clerk, claimed Johnson downloaded Internet pornography in their presence, made sexist comments and engaged in other inappropriate conduct.

Geoff Riches, the Human Resources Department's director, issued a report that there were indeed grounds to investigate the claims.

At the time, Johnson issued a press release denying the allegations and charging that the probe was "one-sided." He also said he was denied a request for a public hearing to discuss the allegations.

The women were put on paid administrative leave Feb.

25, 2002, and five months later given other county jobs.

The case was turned over to the U.S.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for further investigation.

The EEOC determined in August that the two had reasonable cause to believe Johnson harassed them.

Determination letters sent by the commission to the women on Aug.

14, 2003, stated that Johnson "created a sexually tainted work environment" for the two.

The EEOC referred the case to the U.S.

Department of Justice.

But Justice last month indicated that it would not sue Mohave County for sexual harassment or discrimination on behalf of the two women.

"No one is helping us now," McMahon said.

"I am disappointed that the U.S.

Department of Justice decided not the file suit against the county on our behalf, but I plan to hire my own lawyer and continue with this."

McMahon said her federal civil rights were violated and now will add other charges to the suit she plans to bring.

"He stalked me and harassed me.

He has never stopped," she said.

"Marisa and I have done nothing wrong.

We are the victims.

I look forward to speaking to the attorney general about this.

We have been waiting all this time to speak to someone from that office.

We have not spoken publicly because we wanted to remain good witnesses."

Walker said he wants the county attorney and the state attorney general or an independent counsel to conduct a full investigation.

Johnson was quoted in the May 3 edition of Today's News Herald.

In the story, Johnson said Tusa and McMahon "were obviously put up to this with promises of easy money."

Walker said that Johnson's comments are libelous, untrue and have "crossed the line."

"Neither Byers nor Sockwell had any involvement in the grievance process, and only after the grievance document was made a public document did they have access to any information," Walker said.

Walker is asking for an investigation to evaluate the "scope, breadth and completeness of the sexual harassment administrative grievance investigation procedure conducted by the Human Resources Department and the conclusions drafted by Director Geoff Riches.

The investigation should thoroughly review all the findings, excluding those under the auspices of the EEOC, for illegal activity that may have been conducted during Buster's terms as supervisor, and ensure any illegal activity is investigated."

Citing state law, he is recommending that the county attorney, as the chief law enforcement officer in the county, remand the allegations over to a grand jury.

When contacted Friday, Johnson said he welcomes an investigation.

He said that he would welcome a "thorough and fair look at the sexual harassment grievances filed against me, the way they were handled by Riches and the manner in which the county failed to provide a defense when the case went to the EEOC."

Johnson claims the commission should not have become involved in the case because Title VII of the Civil Right Act states that a political appointee is not classified as a government employee.

He said Tusa, and possibly McMahon, were appointed to their positions, so they, too, should not have been considered employees of the county.


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