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County to pay $900K to settle complaint against sheriff

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anderson scott2 20-01-12s

Scott Anderson is running for re-election as Calhoun County sheriff.

Calhoun County has agreed to pay a former employee of its former sheriff $900,000 to settle a civil rights complaint she made against him for alleged sexual harassment and other abusive behavior.

The former sheriff, Scott Edward Anderson, resigned in April after he was arrested for assaulting his wife and a police officer. Anderson is charged with domestic abuse assault and assault on persons in certain occupations for the April 11 incidents, and those charges are still pending in district court.

After his arrest, former county emergency dispatcher Tamara Swank publicly revealed that she had filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission against Anderson in December after reporting his misconduct to county officials to no avail.

In that civil rights complaint she alleged two years of sexual harassment and verbal abuse that began after Anderson was appointed sheriff in 2017. He had worked for the department for more than 30 years at the time he resigned.

Swank alleged that Anderson belittled his employees, complained often about his sex life and once invited Swank into his office for sex, which she declined.

Anderson has not responded to requests to comment about the allegations.

Calhoun County Attorney Tina Meth Farrington announced the $900,000 settlement Thursday and said the county's insurance will cover the bulk of it.

"The settlement was reached through mediation," she told the Times Herald. "All parties except the former sheriff signed off on it."

The county hired a Des Moines law firm to investigate the allegations. No one admitted guilt as part of the settlement.

"Calhoun County takes civil rights complaints from their employees very seriously," Meth Farrington said in a press release. "The county has in place a policy to respond to these complaints. The county followed the policy that is in place, however, these policies are ineffective when the person responsible for the harassment and retaliation is an elected official."

But Roxanne Conlin, a prominent Des Moines attorney who represented Swank, said public officials must be held accountable for harassment regardless of whether they are elected.

"My hope is that the county and other counties will understand that it doesn't matter if an official is elected or not, they still have an absolute obligation to their employees to be sure they are not being sexually harassed," Conlin told the Times Herald. "There's just some kind of a leftover belief that the county board of supervisors has to walk away when it's an elected official, and that's simply not true."

Conlin said Swank is in counseling to cope with Anderson's conduct.

"She's still going to struggle, there's no question about that," Conlin said of Swank.

Anderson's court trial for the assault charges is set for Sept. 15.

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