Friday, April 4, 2003

Ludlow assistant chief reprimanded

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Ludlow Police Department has reprimanded its assistant chief and submitted a damage claim to its insurance carrier following allegations of sexual harassment of a woman during a job interview.

Assistant Chief Lt. Col. Bennie Johnson has been ordered to attend a course on sexual harassment and a memorandum of reprimand has been placed in his personnel file.

A lawyer's complaint says the veteran law-enforcement official sexually harassed a Kenton County jail employee applying for a Ludlow patrol officer's job.

"Johnson is hereby formally reprimanded for his use of inappropriate and unprofessional language ... while on duty for the Ludlow Police Department," according to the written reprimand obtained by the Enquirer.

"As punishment for this offense, and as a condition of his continued employment with the Ludlow Police Department, Lt. Col. Bennie Johnson shall accept this written reprimand and shall attend training on sexual harassment and related matters at the direction of the Chief of Police."

Johnson referred questions about the reprimand to his attorney, Bridget Hofler-Saunders, who did not return a phone message Thursday. Johnson, however, agreed to waive his right to a hearing in the harassment case and signed the written reprimand March 27.

Police Chief Raymond Murphy was out of town and unavailable for comment, and Mayor Ed Schroeder referred questions to city solicitor Chris Mehling.

Mehling said his law partner, Alice Keys, conducted the city's investigation into the harassment claim.

Mehling said Keys concluded, and Schroeder agreed, that there was probable cause justifying the disciplinary action and the insurance claim.

The city launched its investigation after receiving a complaint filed by Covington attorney Barbara Bonar.

The complaint, contained in a one-page letter dated March 5, states that on at least three separate occasions, the applicant was "seriously and severely sexually harassed, humiliated and demeaned."

Neither the complaint nor the reprimand spelled out the specific language used and all parties refused to elaborate.

"Such harassment was so extensive that she did not even feel comfortable in taking the written test, and it was made clear to her that she would never be given a fair opportunity to successfully perform as a Police Officer at the Ludlow Police Department," Bonar wrote.

In the letter, Bonar proposed settling the complaint in a "non-public, confidential environment" so as not to jeopardize her client's chances of becoming a police officer somewhere in Northern Kentucky.

Ludlow, a city of about 4,400 on the Ohio River bank, has seven sworn police officers on its force, which also provides service to neighboring Bromley.

The police department has never had a sworn female officer, according to city officials.

Councilman Bill Froehle, a member of the council's public safety committee, declined to comment on the reprimand. He was out of town during the executive session called to discuss the personnel issue.


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