Comment spurs complaint
By Michael D. Bates | Hernando TodayBROOKSVILLE - Assistant Utilities Director Jesse Goodwin said the only thing he is guilty of is using bad judgment in uttering three stupid words to a female subordinate.
Published: December 28, 2012
Published: December 28, 2012
Five years ago, the employee, Bobbie Hamilton, came into his office while he said he was experimenting with his new cell phone and learning to take pictures.
Hamilton jokingly said she would "flash" him for a photograph, according to a report on the incident.
Goodwin then said he stupidly responded, "Yeah, go ahead."
Hamilton left the office.
"It was the dumbest thing I've ever said in my 32-year career," Goodwin told Hernando Today on Thursday.
But that incident resurfaced when the county was investigating a separate allegation that Goodwin had created a hostile work environment against a different utilities employee, Chris Soto. That investigation was found to be unsubstantiated.
Goodwin told Hernando Today he believes this older allegation is coming out because of the Soto incident and it is ridiculous.
"I didn't feel there were any sexual overtones or anything," Goodwin said of the incident. "It's just unfortunate. But I'm management and I should have known better and I accept full responsibility."
Goodwin said in the investigative report that he is tends to have a friendly attitude to female subordinates, which they could perceive to be "flirtatious."
He doesn't deny that.
"If I'm guilty of anything, perhaps it is I like to think of everyone as my friend and maybe sometimes, someone could interpret it as flirting," he said.
That is not sexual harassment, he added. Sexual harassment, he said, occurs when someone expects sexual favors, and that did not occur in this case.
But Paul Douglas, the first vice president of the local NAACP, disagrees and said he was appalled when he read Goodwin's comment.
That statement alone is sexual harassment, Douglas said.
Douglas said the Hernando County NAACP branch plans to look into the matter.
Douglas said the NAACP believes there may be more instances of sexual harassment problems within the utilities department and plans to interview other female employees in the next several weeks.
"The NAACP considers this sexual harassment on the job and we are considering our involvement in making sure that this type of activity is completely eliminated in Hernando County government," Douglas said.
Director of Administrative Services Cheryl Marsden said in a report that Goodwin's conduct was "unbecoming of a supervisor" and violated the county's anti-harassment policy.
Marsden, who is on vacation, noted that the alleged incident occurred five years ago before Hernando County began providing anti-harassment training to supervisors, Marsden noted in her report.
"That fact mitigates, but does not excuse, Mr. Goodwin's behavior," she wrote.
Douglas said it is immaterial whether the county had formally initiated a policy at the time. Harassment is harassment, he said.
The punishments, if any, will be formally decided after the holidays, when county officials will return from vacation.
A verbal warning is not enough, Douglas said. At the very least, Goodwin should have been placed on administrative leave with pay until any punishment is decided, he said.
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