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Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT

Friday, September 29, 2023

Port Clinton firefighter and emergency medical technician Rebekah Huskey's suit alleges Fire Chief Kent Johnson serially sexually assaulted and harassed her, violating her Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process and other rights.

Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT
Rebekah Huskey, Port Clinton firefighter and EMT, with her fiancé and son

Toledo, OH – Today, Rebekah Huskey, a 31-year-old, engaged mom of a toddler and longtime Port Clinton, OH firefighter and emergency medical technician, filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Port Clinton and its 64-year-old fire chief, Kent Johnson. The suit alleges that Johnson serially sexually assaulted and harassed her.

The suit alleges that Johnson's conduct constituted unconstitutional sex discrimination and a breach of her right to bodily integrity, violating her rights to equal protection and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The suit also asserts state-law claims for civil liability for multiple criminal acts under Ohio Rev. Code § 2307.60, common-law assault, battery, and other torts arising from August 2021 to May 2023 when Kent Johnson is alleged to have repeatedly sexually assaulted Ms. Huskey at their workplace and in her home.

The city is alleged to be liable for Johnson’s alleged acts because Johnson was a high-ranking city official.

Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT
Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson, age 64

The federal civil-rights complaint alleges as follows.

Ms. Huskey's dream job was being a firefighter and EMT.

Ms. Huskey began working for the Port Clinton's fire division in 2006, first as a volunteer at least as early as the age of 16. She has known Johnson since she was seven years old.

Firefighting is a family tradition. Both her father and fiancé work for the fire division. Ms. Huskey thought of Johnson as a father figure or uncle, and his family like her aunts and cousins.

Allegations of sexual assault and more:

  • "'Obsessed'"

  • "'I feel like a pedophile'"

  • "'If your back wasn't broken, I'd break it'"

  • Missing underwear.

The suit alleges persistent sexual assaults and other prurient conduct by Chief Johnson over recent months and years:

  • Forcefully grabbing Ms. Huskey’s buttocks when she was visibly pregnant, and insisting she return early to work after her pregnancy, when he harassed and assaulted her more.
  • Running his hand up her leg toward her vagina, in his office, with a noticeable wet spot on his pants.
  • Texting Ms. Huskey the next day that he felt “like a pedophile.”
  • Repeatedly grinding his groin into her and groping her, making comments like, “I am crazy about you” and “I would love to try your cream.”
  • Trying to justify his behavior by saying he had a lot going on at home.
  • Stealing her underwear and socks for his own prurient, fetishist use and, when she reported the garments missing, ordering her not to lock her locker.
  • Sexually assaulting and inflicting pain on her in her own home when she was almost completely immobile and recovering from back surgery; rubbing her incision and pushing her walker out of the way so she could not try to escape his sexual attack.
  • Telling her, while groping her private parts, how much he “loved” her, how he is “obsessed” with her, how they were “destined to be together,” and how he wished they had met when he was younger.
  • Telling her, “If your back wasn’t broken, I’d break it.”
  • Approaching Ms. Huskey from behind as she sat at her desk, touching her shoulders, and moving his hands down to grope her breasts.
  • Trying to make her touch his erect penis through his pants, which had a wet spot.
  • Groping her breasts from the side every time he hugged her, which was constantly and unnecessary; she would not hug back and would stiffen up in his arms.

Allegations of severe and pervasive sexual harassment:

  • "'You would be my sex slave.'"

The suit further alleges persistent sexually harassing comments by Chief Kent Johnson:

  • Asking if he could watch her pump her breasts.
  • Saying “there are men into milking breasts” and that he could “make a fortune off that.”
  • Saying her breasts “looked amazing.”
  • Saying he “stopped seeing [her] as a young girl,” and that she was now a “grown, sexy woman.”
  • Saying “if [Ms. Huskey] and [her] fiancé have sex while on duty at the fire station, [they] should do it in front of the cameras so [Johnson] could watch.”
  • Asking Ms. Huskey if she would engage in anal sex for her fiancé’s birthday and that if she did so, it would be “easier with lube.”
  • Revealing that he often looked at Ms. Huskey’s photos on Facebook while touching himself and had to “get creative” so that he could mentally block out her fiancé and baby from the photos and focus only on her.
  • Saying her toes “looked delicious.”
  • Saying, “I bet you can handle a dog knot. Do you think you can handle a dog knot?” (This is a reference to sexual acts between dogs when a male dog locks up inside a female dog.)
  • Saying Ms. Huskey had a “fat ass.”
  • Requesting that she put documents down her pants before giving them to him.
  • Blaming her “period and hormones” for rejecting his sexual advances.
  • Boasting he “could last all night long” and that he could “make [her] eyes cross if [she] had sex with [him].”
  • Saying she was “too scared” to have sex with him.
  • Telling her he would watch her work out on the cameras.
  • Telling her he wanted to “lick [her] nipples.”
  • Telling her he wanted her to “sit on [his] lap.”
  • Telling her that if he “had it [his] way, [she] would be [his] sex slave.”

Ms. Huskey made clear the conduct and attention was unwanted.

Text-message come-ons:

  • "'You are hot'"

  • "'Pictures would sure help'"

  • "'If you want to carry them in your pants for a while that would be okay.'"

  • "'Sorry for being crude.'"

The suit further alleges that Johnson sent Ms. Huskey text messages expressing his infatuation, including these:

  • An emoji of a female sheep, the letter “R,” and an emoji of fire, meaning “Ewe [You] are hot.” He added, “Love you” and a heart emoji. When she asked if he was feeling better because he had been quarantined with COVID-19, he said, “I’ll be fine…” But then he added: “Pictures would sure help.” She didn’t respond with the requested photos of herself:

    Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT

  • Requesting she drop off N95 masks in his mailbox, he added, “If you want to carry them in your pants for a while that would be ok,” followed by a grinning emoji:

    Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT

  • Knowing what he did was wrong, Johnson later added, “Sorry for being crude... Thank you for everything.”:

    Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT

When she didn't respond to his overtures, Johnson pressed, “What’s the matter?” And then, “Gonna leave me hanging?”:

Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT

The suit details other alleged sexual assaults. And it alleges that Chief Johnson sent her stalking messages call her “sexy” and saying he “wonders about her all the time,” among other overtures:

Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT

Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT

Chief Johnson turns Ms. Huskey from a firefighter/EMT to his "'personal secretary.'"

The suit alleges that when Ms. Huskey returned to work from back surgery, with a doctor's clearance to resume her duties as a firefighter and EMT, Chief Johnson had taken away her job, forcing her to accept a new position as his “personal secretary.” This served as an excuse for him touch her and force her to share space with him, facilitating, the suit alleges, his continued spree of sexual harassment and sexual assaults.

Throughout her ordeal, the suit alleges, Ms. Huskey repeatedly made clear to Johnson that she had no interest in a romantic or sexual relationship with him. She did her best to be polite and kind, and not anger him, because he was her boss—and being a firefighter and EMT was her dream job. She tried to focus on her work and ignore Johnson’s unwanted and unceasing attention, but he was relentless.

The suit alleges that Johnson so controlled Ms. Huskey, and blocked her access to the central city administration, who would always refuse to respond to her and would tell him about her requests, that Ms. Huskey believed she had no place to go with her concerns about him.

After she reported Johnson at the end of May 2023, Johnson was placed on administrative leave on or about June 6, 2023 pending investigation. But he still has his job.

The suit alleges that Johnson removed or discarded Ms. Huskey’s firefighter/EMT continuing-education training records, which forces her to do her training all over again and interferes with her ability to recertify as a firefighter.

The suit also alleges that after Ms. Huskey injured her back as a EMT while saving a man at the scene of an accident, Chief Johnson ordered her to withdraw her workers' compensation claim, which deprived her of a needed MRI and seriously exacerbated the severity of her injury.

Claims for civil liability for criminal acts.

Ohio law authorizes crime victims to assert civil claims for virtually any criminal act from which they have been harmed. The crimes alleged in the lawsuit's civil-damages-for-criminal-acts claims against Johnson include violations of Ohio Revised Code Sections

A criminal investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has been pending for months. But as the Ohio Supreme Court held in the Chandra Law case of Buddenberg v. Weisdack, no criminal charges or conviction is needed to proceed with these civil claims.

Ms. Huskey’s charges with the EEOC and Ohio Civil Rights Commission for federal-and-state-statutory employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Ohio Civil Rights Act (R.C. 4112) remain pending, and she expects to amend her complaint when those agencies authorize her to sue for those additional claims—if they don't themselves take up her cause.

Federal suit: Port Clinton Fire Chief Kent Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed firefighter/EMT
Being a firefighter and EMT was Rebekah Huskey's dream job.

Subodh Chandra, Ms. Huskey’s lead counsel, “Being a firefighter and EMT was Rebekah Huskey's dream job, and she was just as entitled as any of us to work in a safe environment free of violence and discrimination. It takes a great deal of courage for a kind and caring public servant like Rebekah to finally say, ‘enough’ and come forward. We are determined to be her voice and help her hold everyone responsible accountable.”

“We would welcome contact from anyone who has information that would help Rebekah in her quest for justice,” Chandra added.

Ms. Huskey is represented by civil-rights lawyers Subodh Chandra and Donald P. Screen.

The case is captioned, Rebekah Huskey v. City of Port Clinton, et al., Case No. 3:23-cv-01910 and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Western Division. The complaint, which is much more detailed, may be found here.

Chandra Law is experienced obtaining justice for victims of sex/gender discrimination including sexual harassment, employment discrimination, and employment retaliation. We also secure constitutional rights like those at issue in this lawsuit.

And the firm helped pioneer work in holding individuals and companies accountable for
civil liability for criminal acts, securing the two leading Supreme Court of Ohio decisions favorable to crime victims on the topic.

If you think that your civil rights have been violated, you may
contact us to discuss your options.

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Related Practice Areas
Constitutional LawEmployment DiscriminationEmployment RetaliationSexual HarassmentSex/gender DiscriminationCrime Victims: Civil Action for Damages for Criminal Acts Under Ohio Revised Code § 2307.60

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