Friday, November 03, 2000

Mason firefighter sues ex-chief

Sexual harassment alleged

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — A Mason firefighter has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former fire chief Billy Goldfeder and the city of Mason, accusing city leaders of failing to take proper action once complaints about him were made.

        Tracy Horwarth, a part-time firefighter for two years, claims that Mr. Goldfeder had subjected her to “a hostile working environment because of her sex” and “deliberately harassed her because she was a woman.” She filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court a week ago.

        Ms. Horwarth is seeking more than $750,000 in damages for lost wages, emotion al stress, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.

        She has also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. That complaint is pending before the commission.

        In her lawsuit, Ms. Horwarth says Mr. Goldfeder repeatedly asked her out to dinner and forced her to speak about her personal life and problems involving her boyfriend, who also works for the Mason Fire Department. She says she did so reluctantly for fear of losing her job.

        “When I was having some problems with my boyfriend, William Goldfeder had me come into his office, spoke to me in a solicitous manner, and continually called me to take rides with him, go out to dinner, and act toward him more socially than just an employee,” Ms. Horwarth said in the lawsuit.

        Mr. Goldfeder, who in the past has denied allegations he sexually harassed his employees, declined to comment about the lawsuit. He referred all questions to his attorney, Warren Richey, who did not return phone calls from the Enquirer on Thursday.

        Mr. Goldfeder, 45, resigned Oct. 1 in the midst of a 45-day inquiry commissioned by the city. The 27-year firefighting veteran was accused of sexually harassing several female firefighters, creating a hostile working environment by screaming and cursing at his officers, and routinely showing favoritism, especially to certain female employees.

        Ms. Horwarth claims the former fire chief would touch her without her consent and show her seminude pictures of females on the Internet and compare their figures to hers. She said Mr. Goldfeder also made false and derogatory comments about her boyfriend in an attempt to break up their relationship.

        The city is also guilty of discrimination against Ms. Horwarth, the lawsuit states, because it “refused to take proper action when it became aware that Mr. Goldfeder had created a hostile working environment.”

        She also took issue with the city's decision to retain Mr. Goldfeder as a consultant after his resignation.

        “We feel there is no basis for the allegations against the city,” said Mason Law Director Ken Schneider. “We acted promptly with the knowledge we had when we received it, and we conducted a thorough investigation. The city did everything it could in this situation.”


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