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Dispatchers’ case against officer settled

The former Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. dispatcher’s federal claim of sexual harassment against a county police officer, filed last year, has been dismissed in return for a $5,000 settlement.
Harrison County Attorney Chris Byrd said the case was settled to avoid the legal costs that would be ‘ongoing for months to come.’
He said, ‘It was in the best interest of the county to settle it and get rid of it.’
In doing so, the county admitted no wrongdoing, Byrd said.
C. Wendell Smith, the sheriff at the time the allegation was made against his chief, Jodie Wilson, said he was opposed to settling the case because it could be incorrectly considered an admission of guilt. But he said he was not consulted.
‘I don’t think he’s guilty; she was just getting back at us for being terminated,’ Smith said. ‘It was just a vendetta.’
In her lawsuit, Tamara D. Watkin, 30, claimed she was fired because she had refused Wilson’s request for a sexual favor.
Wilson said she was fired for taking part in a prank in November 2001 involving two police officers who called in a false report about a drunk driver. The two officers admitted the prank, and each was suspended for five days. Watkin denied the accusation and refused to answer questions, according to Wilson’s report.
Neither Watkin nor her attorney, Stephen W. Voelker of Jeffersonville, could be reached yesterday.
Byrd said Watkin will be responsible for all of the costs relating to the court action, including her attorney’s fees.
She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and an investigation was conducted, but the agency didn’t find for either party. That cleared the way for the federal lawsuit, Watkin said.
That suit, filed just two months before the November election in which Smith was a candidate for sheriff, was nothing more than ‘politics as usual,’ Smith said at the time.
Wilson is still on the force, now serving under Democratic Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick, the Democrat who beat Smith, a Republican, in last fall’s election.
Settlement of the case doesn’t give Watkin her job back, but she could reapply for it, Byrd said.

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