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Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Among the new claims in Rebekah Huskey's amended suit is that now-former Chief Kent Johnson secretly took photos of her own private, intimate images from her phone and stored them in his Google cloud, violating federal and state hacking and privacy laws.

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations
Port Clinton former Fire Chief Kent Johnson, now age 65 — City of Port Clinton portrait

Toledo, OH – Today, Rebekah Huskey, a now-former Port Clinton, OH firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT), [UPDATED 5/30/24] amended and supplemented her federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Port Clinton and its now-fired 65-year-old fire chief, Kent Johnson.

The original suit, which alleged that Johnson serially sexually assaulted and harassed her, adds new claims. These include allegations based on revelations from an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigation into Johnson. That investigation discovered Johnson had secretly taken photographs of intimate, private images of Ms. Huskey off of her phone and stored them on his own Google cloud, without her authorization. (How he's alleged to have accomplished this is explained in greater detail below and in the amended complaint.)

The amended federal civil-rights complaint includes the following allegations.

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, and viewed him as a dad or uncle. She even called him "dad." She thought of his family like her aunts and cousins.

Firefighting is a family tradition. Until recently, both her father and sister worked for the fire department for years. They quit because of the abuse and retaliation Ms. Huskey endured and safety risks presented by retaliatory anger in the department. Ms. Huskey's fiancé remains with the department.

Allegations of sexual assault and more:

  • "'I'm obsessed with you'"

  • "'I feel like a pedophile'"

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

  • Missing underwear.

The amended 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 in between 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 and complaining about his wife.
  • 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, becoming enraged when she bought a lock, and demanding she share the combination with him.
  • 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 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” with sex.
  • 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.

More sexual-harassment allegations:

  • "'If I had it my way, you would be my sex slave.'"

The amended suit further alleges persistent sexually harassing comments by Chief Kent Johnson after Ms. Huskey's baby was born:

  • 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, “I've stopped seeing you as a young girl,” and that she was now a “grown, sexy woman.”
  • Saying, “if you and [her fiancé] have sex while on duty at the fire station, you should do it in front of the cameras so I can 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 he could mentally block out her fiancé and baby from the photos and focus only on her.
  • Repeatedly tell her her toes “looked delicious.”
  • Saying, “I bet you can handle a dog knot. Do you think you can handle a dog knot?” (Referring to sexual acts between dogs when a male dog locks up inside a female dog.)
  • Saying Ms. Huskey had a “fat ass.”
  • Requesting she put documents down her pants before giving them to him.
  • Blaming her “period and hormones” for her rejecting his sexual advances.
  • Boasting, “I could last all night long” and “I could make your eyes cross if you had sex with me.”
  • Saying she was “too scared” to have sex with him.
  • Telling her he wanted to “lick [her] nipples.”
  • Telling her he would watch her work out on the security cameras, causing her to stop doing that.
  • Asking if she had her female friend and houseguest had been "licking" each other.
  • Beckoning her to “sit on [his] lap.”
  • Saying, “If had it my way, you would be my sex slave.”

Ms. Huskey made clear to Johnson that his conduct and attention was unwanted, the amended suit alleges.

Text-message sexual overtures:

  • "'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 amended 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:

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

  • Asking Ms. Huskey to drop off N95 masks in his mailbox, he told her, “If you want to carry them in your pants for a while that would be ok,” followed by a grinning emoji:

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

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

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

  • When she didn't respond to his overtures like saying he “worr[ies]” about her—his supposed “baby”—Johnson pressed, “What’s the matter?” And then begged, “Gonna leave me hanging?”:

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

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

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations

Turning Ms. Huskey from a firefighter/EMT to his "'personal secretary.'"

The amended suit alleges that when Ms. Huskey returned to work from back surgery, with a doctor's written 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 amended suit alleges, Ms. Huskey repeatedly made clear to Johnson that wasn't interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with him.

She did her best to be kind, and not anger him, not just because he was her boss—and being a firefighter and EMT was her dream. She felt compassion for Johnson because he would apologize for and excuse his conduct saying he had problems at home, repeatedly promising, "I'm done picking on you." She tried to focus on her work and ignore Johnson’s unwanted and unceasing attention.

But he was relentless, the amended suit alleges.

The amended suit explains how Ms. Huskey's personality made her a particularly vulnerable victim to Johnson's manipulations, and how, knowing her since she was seven years old, he exploited that.

The amended suit also alleges that Johnson so controlled Ms. Huskey—blocking her access to the central city administration who would always redirect her to him—that Ms. Huskey believed she had no place to go to report his misconduct.

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

And the amended suit 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.

Stealing, transferring, and keeping intimate personal photos—and lying about it:

  • Demanding Ms. Huskey's phone and going to the restroom

  • "'Poop particles'"

  • "Intimate personal images"

  • Supposedly "'investigating'" Ms. Huskey

The amended suit adds a new revelation stepping from an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigation (BCI). As the first complaint alleged, Johnson had demanded Ms. Huskey's personal smartphone ostensibly to check the "I Am Responding" app used to communicate responses to calls for firefighting or EMT service. Ms. Huskey told him it was working just fine, but Johnson insisted.

She closed her background apps and gave him her phone. He went to the restroom with it, twice, over her objections about "poop particles" getting on it.

When her phone was returned, she saw that her Photos app was now open, and positioned on the screenshots she had taken of Johnson's sexual harassing texts. He was angry about it and later told her, falsely, she was blackmailing him.

What she did not then know, the amended complaint alleges, and what what was revealed by the BCI investigation, was that Johnson had taken photos on his own phone of private, intimate images of Ms. Huskey for her and her fiancé. He did this, and transferred them to his Google cloud, without authorization.

When confronted by law enforcement about this in 2024, Johnson first claimed that he had been "investigating" Ms. Huskey. He later changed his story to claim he had obtained the photos from her fiancé's phone. (That too would have been unauthorized.)

But, the amended suit alleges, Johnson had lied to the City's outside investigator in the fall of 2023 that other than the “I Am Responding” app, “I don’t remember looking at other things on it.” He added, “No, I wasn’t searching her phone. Why would I?”

The amended suit alleges that Johnson transferred these images to his Google cloud "for his lascivious access." During the City investigator's interview, he never disclosed his access and transfer. Nor did he mention it to the safety-service director or law director at any time—including when he was placed on leave.

He only gave the excuse of "investigating" Ms. Huskey... when he was caught by law enforcement.

This behavior is the basis for multiple new claims in the amended complaint including violation of federal statute 15 U.S.C. § 6851, which provides for $150,000 in liquidated damages, a civil action for violation of state law criminal statute Unauthorized Use of Property — computer, cable, or telecommunication property (R.C. 2913.04) and Interference with Civil Rights (R.C. 2921.45), a federal constitutional claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a Fourth Amendment violation for warrantless and unreasonable search and seizure by a government official, and an Ohio common-law claim for wrongful intrusion into privacy.

Admissions when Johnson was placed on leave:

  • "'Overstepped a boundary or two'"

  • "'The kiss? You know where I grabbed her by the face....'"

  • "'I'm sure there's going to be some texts and some other stuff, so...'"

  • "'She's probably got enough to hang me out to dry.'"

After Ms. Huskey, 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.

During the meeting in which he was placed on leave, the amended suit alleges, Johnson

  • falsely sought to portray Ms. Huskey as "crazy," "very unstable," and delusional,
  • admitted he had sent her problematic text messages,
  • admitted he crossed boundaries with her,
  • defamed Ms. Huskey insinuating she had done something to provoke his behavior,
  • admitted she has "got enough to hang me out to dry," and
  • successully sought to elicit sympathy from the City's safety-service director and law director.

Johnson's self-pity party was so effective that the safety-service director said, "I just care about Kent Johnson's name." The law director hugged Johnson at the end of the meeting.

Johnson secretly recorded the meeting. The transcript was filed with and is at the end of the amended complaint and the recording is being manually filed with the Court.

Johnson was fired but is still fighting it.

Following an outside investigation commissioned by the city, Johnson was fired on January 18. The outside investigator's report found that Johnson had sexually harassed Ms. Huskey with improper text messages shown above and had falsified payroll records relating to her. The city failed to address the sexual-assault allegations one way or the other.

Johnson is appealing his firing through the civil-service commission, which the amended suit alleges has been compromised by conflict of interest.

Retaliatory atmosphere:

The amended suit alleges that after Ms. Huskey returned to work on February 17, 2024 following Johnson's firing, she was immediately engulfed in a retaliatory and hostile work environment that City officials failed to stop.

Multiple coworkers—including Assistant Fire Chief Charles Zillman—refused to speak with her, work with her, or even show up to emergency calls when she was working.

When she entered a room, people made a big show of getting up and leaving. And the hostility extended beyond the fire department to other fellow first responders. When she was on service calls, some Port Clinton police officers—essential first responders for her to work with—would neither talk with nor look at her. The complaint alleges one example of Johnson family-friend Port Clinton Officer Amy Pugh, who refused to talk to Ms. Huskey about a patient’s condition and events leading to a 911 EMS call.

Being frozen out put Ms. Huskey's own safety in jeopardy.

No Port Clinton official held fire-department members, including the assistant fire chief, accountable for their retaliatory misconduct.

Given these circumstances and the intolerable working environment, detailed in the allegations of the amended complaint, the city constructively discharged Ms. Huskey. She no choice left but to quit.

And her dreams of being a firefighter/EMT, and carrying on and passing on to her children the family tradition were dead.

The legal claims.

The amended 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 adds claims for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Ohio Civil Rights Act.

And for Johnson's alleged phone intrusion as a government official, the suit alleges a constitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

The amended suit also asserts state-law claims for civil liability for multiple criminal acts under Ohio Rev. Code § 2307.60, and common-law assault, battery, false imprisonment, wrongful intrusion into privacy, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from allegations that 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, as fire chief, Johnson was a high-ranking city official and final policymaker for his department.

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 amended lawsuit's civil-damages-for-criminal-acts claims against Johnson include alleged state crimes of:

A criminal investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is complete and sits with a special prosecutor. 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.

Former Port Clinton firefighter and EMT amends suit against former fire chief Kent Johnson and City with new allegations
Being a firefighter and EMT was Rebekah Huskey's dream job. That dream is now dead.

Subodh Chandra, Ms. Huskey’s lead counsel, “Being a firefighter and EMT was Rebekah Huskey's dream job. That dream is now dead. She deserved to work in a safe environment free of sexual violence, discrimination, and retaliation. It takes a great deal of courage for a true public servant like Rebekah to take a stand."

"We're honored to serve as her voice."

“And we 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, Donald P. Screen, and Frances DiDonato.

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 second amended and supplemental complaint, which provides more details, 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 LawGovernment Ethics, Misconduct, Fraud, & AbuseSexual HarassmentSex/gender DiscriminationCrime Victims: Civil Action for Damages for Criminal Acts Under Ohio Revised Code § 2307.60
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city-of-port-clintonport-clintonsexual-assaultemployment-retaliationkent-johnsonsexual-harassmentsexual-abusedina-shenkertracy-colstonrebekah-huskey

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