Allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation are swirling around Sioux City's City Hall.
Not only is City Manager Paul Eckert named in the federal lawsuit, so is the city itself for allegedly covering up complaints of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
The 70-plus page report details years of alleged sexual harassment by Paul Eckert.
The plaintiff, Brittany Scott, alleges that while working as a full-time administrative assistant at city hall, Eckert created a sexually hostile work environment. From 2000-2004 she says Eckert sent her sexually suggestive e-mails.
She says Eckert constantly showed up in the fitness room, in the basement of City Hall, while she was working out. She alleges that Eckert would touch her arms, and rub her shoulders.
He would also allegedly comment on her physical appearance, and try to transform their time at work into an intimate affair. On one occasion, Scott alleges that when Eckert gave her a ride back to City Hall, following a council meeting outside of City Hall, Eckert, instead, took her on a, "date-like tour" of Sioux City, stopping for ice cream, and at a hill overlooking the Floyd River valley.
There, Scott claims Eckert asked her about her personal life, and allegedly made sexual advances.
The unwelcome advances stopped, Scott says, when she took her concerns to two members of city council, Dave Ferris and Karen Van De Steeg. After what she thought was a confidential conversation, Scott says she was demoted by Eckert and ultimately transferred out of City Hall, to a part time position with a different city department.
Scott's federal complaint seeks damages that include back pay, emotional distress, and counseling expenses. In a phone interview, Eckert denied the charges.
"These retaliation charges are baseless," he said in a statement.
"You're saying everything in there, not just the retaliation, but the allegations of sexual harassment, and a hostile work environment are not true," asked Kristen Johnson.
"All of that was looked at previously," he answered.
"What do you mean it was looked at," Kristen asked.
"It's in the documents. It was all previously investigated. It goes a long way back. I'm very highly dedicated to our community, the council, the staff, and my family," said Eckert.
Scott and her attorney have declined to speak, publicly, about the case at this time.
In her complaint, Scott says Eckert created a similarly sexually hostile work environment for other female employees.
She alleges that the city has effectively created an unwritten policy of tolerating Eckert's behavior, and that complaints made by other women to the city human resources director have been ignored.
When these allegations first surfaced several months ago, Kristen asked H.R. Director, Bridey Hayes whether she was involved in allegedly covering the claims up. She said she couldn't because of a personnel matter.
More recently, Scott approached current Mayor Bob Scott, and City Council member Rhonda Capron, about her concerns over the last 12-years.
"She came to me and I told her that basically it's hearsay until it's proven in the courtroom. I said if you have a complaint, you should file it," the mayor said.
Mayor Scott said he doesn't expect the council to take action against Eckert until the matter works its way through the court system. No other council members wanted to speak about the case.
The entire complaint, including a deposition from Eckert's former secretary talking about other complaints of sexual harassment against Eckert and other top level city employees from other female employees can be found here.
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