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EEOC looks into sexual harassment complaint against Sumter sheriff

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Marhc 23, 2001
LIVINGSTON, Ala. Officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are investigating a sexual harassment complaint filed by a former Sumter County sheriff's employee.
Kimberly Smith's attorney, Mark Majors, said he filed a sexual harassment charge with the EEOC's Birmingham, Ala., office against Sumter County Sheriff Johnny Hatter and the Sumter County Commission.
The EEOC charge also alleges that the sheriff accused his client of extortion in retaliation.
Majors said he knows of no incident upon which Hatter's extortion claim could be based. He said he has been notified of no extortion charge filed against Smith, but the district attorney's office is investigating the sheriff's claim.
If their investigation leads to formal charges, the district attorney could choose to present her case to the grand jury this fall, he said.
Majors said the county attorney's office offered Smith an out-of-court settlement, but that Smith never asked the sheriff for money.
He said the law mandates an EEOC complaint be investigated before any lawsuit is filed.
The EEOC investigation could take six months to a year, Majors said. After it is complete, EEOC officials can issue a finding that a violation occurred, or if they don't find sufficient evidence, they can issue what's called a "right to sue" letter, Majors said.
He said if they find evidence of sexual harassment, his client could receive up to $300,000 from Sumter County for violation of her civil rights.
Hatter refused comment, saying he did not wish to discuss the matter over the telephone.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.