Crime & Courts

Iredell sheriff, former officer settle sexual harassment suit

Iredell County Sheriff Phil Redmond and one of his deputies have settled a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by two women, one of whom was a domestic violence victim who’d sought the officer’s help, court records show.

Redmond and former sheriff’s domestic violence investigator Ben Jenkins settled the suit in mediation, according to a form filed by mediator Kenneth Carlson Jr. on Aug. 21 in U.S. District Court in Statesville.

The other plaintiff in the case said Jenkins began sexually harassing and stalking her after he overheard her talking about her violent and abusive ex-husband, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claimed the Sheriff’s Office failed to take appropriate action against Jenkins and never provided sexual harassment training for its officers until three years after one of the woman’s 2009 complaints.

As far back as 2006 or 2007, the lawsuit said, Jenkins had remarked that “finding dates working with victims of domestic violence is like shooting fish in a barrel.”

According to the lawsuit, Iredell County Jail Administrator Rick Dowdle said Jenkins admitted to him that he sexually harassed a woman. Dowdle recommended that Jenkins be demoted to jail deputy.

“Not surprisingly, given his lack of effort in the matter,” the lawsuit said, Redmond “could not explain why he demoted Jenkins rather than fire him.”

The Observer does not generally identify victims of domestic violence and abuse.

A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said Redmond was unavailable Thursday and transferred a reporter’s call to the voicemail of sheriff’s Capt. Darren Campbell, who hadn’t replied by Thursday night. Jenkins couldn’t be reached.

County Attorney Bill Pope said insurance companies were handling the matter and he didn’t know how much money the women received. He said he hasn’t seen the settlement agreement.

Charlotte lawyer Joshua Van Kampen, who represented the women, said he was legally bound by terms of the settlement to keep the amount confidential.

Citing the N.C. Public Records Law, the Observer on Thursday filed a request with Pope and County Manager Ron Smith for the settlement amount and other terms of the agreement.

In their lawsuit, the women requested “more than $10,000 in damages.”

While the parties have signed a Mediated Settlement Agreement to resolve the case, both sides must still sign a final settlement and release agreement before the case is dismissed, Van Kampen said. That could happen on Friday or early next week, he said.

Although the court has taken the case off the docket for trial next week, “the lawsuit is still live until the final settlement agreement is executed and it is voluntarily dismissed,” he said.

Staff Researcher Maria David contributed.