A Clark County deputy who said she suffered sexual harassment and discrimination at the sheriff’s office was under internal and criminal investigations prior to filing a lawsuit against the county.
Erika Halburnt was accused in February 2013 of taking evidence from inmates and giving it to her husband, who is a Dayton police officer.
She was also accused of improper use of the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway computer system that allows officers access to various tools to investigate and report crime, according to documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.
“Access to OHLEG is only granted to law enforcement personnel who have the need to access the system and must be applied for through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office,” according to Clark County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Eric Holmes.
Illegally accessing the system is a fifth-degree felony, Holmes said.
Halburnt filed a lawsuit against the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the county commissioners Oct. 30. In it she claimed that in 2011 she discovered a sexually explicit, digitally altered photo containing a likeness to her on the sheriff’s office’s computer system.
She suffered emotional distress and lost wages and will continue to suffer in the future, according to court records filed by her attorneys, Jeffrey M. Silverstein of Dayton and John D. Smith of Springboro.
“The photo was just the latest in a series of unrelenting acts of sexual harassment, resulting in a hostile work environment at the Clark County Sheriff’s department,” according to Silverstein and Smith.
The county and sheriff’s office has denied the charges and are seeking to have the suit dismissed.
An internal investigation found in April 2013 that sexual harassment did occur, but officials were unable to determine who was responsible for the incident, according to court documents.
The investigation also found that an original investigation did not conform to the expectations of “an internal investigation at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office,” Silverstein and Smith stated in the lawsuit.
She is on disability leave from her job because of the harassment and discrimination she faced in the department, according to Silverstein and Smith.
The attorney defending Clark County said the timing of Halburnt’s suit is suspect because she didn’t tell her union representative about the photo until after she was notified she was under investigation for passing evidence to her husband.
The photo of Halburnt was of her “planking” while in uniform in the Clark County Jail, attorney Jeffrey A. Stankunas, who is representing the county, wrote in court records.
“Someone used a ‘clip art’ function to add two sexually explicit drawings to the digital photograph, and the digital photograph was subsequently downloaded to that computer,” Stankunas said in court records.
Officials acknowledge multiple supervisors, including Lt. Phil Sanders, were notified about the photo, but deny Sanders told Halburnt to: “erase it (the photo) and not let anyone know that it bothered” her, as Halburnt claims in her lawsuit, according to court records.