DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) –Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he and most of the other County Commissioners were kept in the dark for weeks about the sexual harassment allegations against former Health Director Zach Thompson.
He blamed both a fellow Commissioner and Darryl Martin, the man who runs Dallas County.
Jenkins said, “It went up the chain to the County Administrator who went to Commissioner John Wiley Price because he and Zach Thompson are friends, and then a small circle with the DA was included. Then that circle kept the information from the Commissioners Court and my office.”
County records obtained by CBS11 following an open records request show on December 5 of last year, one of Thompson’s female employees filed a detailed complaint against him claiming he forced her to have various sexual encounters over a nearly two-year period.
Jenkins said he only found out about the allegations against Thompson after receiving a letter from the county employee’s attorney on December 22.
The Commissioners Court Judge said Martin told him later, “That but for the lawyer for the alleged victim sending me a letter and an email, the day before we left for the Christmas holiday, the (Commissioners) Court would never have been told, would have never found out about this and Mr. Thompson would have retired.”
When asked if there was a cover-up at the highest levels of Dallas County, Judge Jenkins replied, “I don’t want to use that word. But I can tell you Commissioner Price, people in the county administration, and people at the DA’s office knew about this and the rest of us did not. Once the rest of us found out about it, the course changed and Mr. Thompson was terminated.”
First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes disagreed with Judge Jenkins account as it relates to the DA’s office.
Snipes said that neither he nor the District Attorney Faith Johnson, nor anyone at the DA’s office found out about the allegations against Thompson until after they received a demand letter from the woman’s attorney.
That came weeks after the employee filed her complaint.
Both Administrator Martin and Commissioner Price did not return our calls Tuesday afternoon.
Jenkins though said he’s made clear to the County Administrator, “This should have been reported to the entire court and that didn’t happen. So that’s a change we’re going to make sure that happens.”
The judge said an employment law firm the county has hired is studying how this situation can be handled in the future.
He also said the county has already revamped its sexual harassment training for employees.
Dallas County redacted the employee’s name when it released the employee’s complaint Monday afternoon after being ordered to do so by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
On Tuesday, the employee’s attorney, Jennifer Spencer of Dallas said she and her client were surprised the complaint went public.
Spencer said, “She is very traumatized over having so many details of her private life revealed. She’s come forward with her allegations, been very brave in that, but she’s wanted to protect her identity.”
In her complaint against Thompson, the woman claimed that her sexual encounters began in August 2013 during a business trip to Washington, DC and that they continued until June or July 2015.
Regarding the alleged sexual encounters, Thompson’s employee wrote in her complaint, “If we were in his office he was not worried because he stated the cleaning crew did not have keys to his office. He would tell me remember you are not doing anything you don’t want to do and made comments such as, I like to see that walk, I love those eyes… He would come to me and do this sucking or blowing sexual act in my ear and I would push him away telling him to stop… He kept condoms in his desk drawer and would dispose of them by wrapping them in Kleenex and taking them outside when he was leaving the building.”
Thompson’s attorney Anthony Lyons didn’t return our call Tuesday afternoon, but he has previously stated Thompson did nothing wrong.
Judge Jenkins stated in a news release January 5, “There did not appear to be cooperation from Mr. Thompson in that he reportedly would not discuss the allegations made against him when asked by Court Administration.”
Spencer though said her client’s clothing may contain evidence. “She has a skirt. She’s unsure whether it has DNA evidence on it. She has kept it in case it did.”
The woman’s attorney said she doesn’t believe the county has handled this case properly. “Absolutely not.”
County records show Thompson had accused the employee in question of repeatedly violating the county’s policy by not using her swipe card to enter the office before 8:30 a.m.
The employee said in county documents that she believed she was being retaliated against.
Her attorney said from the beginning, the county wanted to sweep this case under the rug. “They agreed to withdraw grievances he filed against her, but that was on the condition that she withdraw her grievance against him.”
Spencer said initially, she and her client demanded the county pay her $200,000, then increased their demand to $300,000, the statutory limit after how she said the county treated her client.
The employee filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission January 26 of this year, and the commission is now investigating.
The agency has until the end of June to decide whether to file a lawsuit against Dallas County, or allow the employee to file suit.
But Spencer said during executive session March 20, the County Commissioners Court decided against entering mediation with the employee, with the goal or preventing a lawsuit.
Spencer said, “Our demand for $300,000 we believe is extremely reasonable. It’s capped by the statutory max, but extremely reasonable.”