Civil Rights & Constitutional Law
Chandra Law obtains $2,000,750 jury verdict for former police chief LaMont Lockhart against the...
December 15, 2008
Friday, September 29, 2023
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.
The federal civil-rights complaint alleges as follows.
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.
The suit alleges persistent sexual assaults and other prurient conduct by Chief Johnson over recent months and years:
The suit further alleges persistent sexually harassing comments by Chief Kent Johnson:
Ms. Huskey made clear the conduct and attention was unwanted.
The suit further alleges that Johnson sent Ms. Huskey text messages expressing his infatuation, including these:
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:
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, with the assistance of counsel, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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