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Ex-Clay Twp. Officer Alleges Sexual Harassment

Photo of John R. Folkerth

A former Clay Twp. police officer says she was sexually harassed and discriminated against by high-ranking officials in that department, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Tina Silvers filed suit against Clay Twp. police Chief John Van Gundy (then a detective), Officer Anthony Scott (then a sergeant) and current or former township trustees Steve Woolf, Robin Lehman, Dave Vore, Lon Chambers and Steve Denlinger.

“There is no professionalism there,” Silvers told this newspaper in an exclusive interview. “They have the good ol’ buddy system there.”

Silvers, 50, alleges in the suit that during her Oct. 2012 to Sept. 2013 stint as an auxiliary officer, she was in a sexually hostile work environment and was subjected to discrimination on the basis of gender.

The suit, filed Jan. 6, hasn’t been officially served because Silvers’ attorney, John Folkerth, received a ruling from the judge to hold service to amend the complaint or list of defendants.

Van Gundy declined to comment. He referred questions to his, the township’s and the trustees’ attorney, Dawn Frick, who did not return a message seeking comment. Frick represents the other defendents as well.

The suit alleges that Van Gundy and Scott subjected Ms. Silvers to numerous and repetitive sexually explicit and inappropriate comments, including those referencing her anatomy, her menstruation and the size of her underwear.

The suit claims Van Gundy told Silvers to lighten up and engage in banter.

The suit also alleges that Silvers — then Tina Crabtree — was written up for not reporting to work and calling off numerous times, some of which Silvers said was approved time off in the wake of her sister’s death and an injury to her mother.

A 958-page Ohio Civil Rights Commission letter of determination filed by Dayton-based investigator Beatrice Sanchez and reviewed by this newspaper found “no probable cause” of Silvers’ sexual harassment and discrimination allegations.

The letter of determination included an affidavit from former Clay Twp. Public Safety Director John Simmons — whose contract was non-renewed in April 2014 — in which Simmons said Silvers did not complete the training required of an auxiliary officer to become a part-time officer.

Simmons’ affidavit said that Silvers was “seen to have poor decision making ability,” didn’t complete assignments, lacked ambition and dedication and made excuses. Silvers was released from her probationary status Sept. 19, 2013 with the backing of trustees, according to Simmons.

“The civil rights commission has a very heavy case load and hasn’t looked at this case from the perspective that we have that has allowed us to conclude that these things actually happened and are unlawful,” Folkerth said. “I’ll stand by the complaint.”

The same document states that Scott was disciplined Oct. 15, 2013 for yelling and using profanity towards Silvers during an incident involving an accident on Interstate 70 in nearby Brookville.

The newspaper’s review the personnel files of Van Gundy, Scott and Silvers shows that in October 2013, Scott was demoted from sergeant to officer, placed on one year probation and ordered to undergo anger management and sensitivity training. Van Gundy’s and Scott’s files contained mostly positive job reviews and commendations prior to Scott’s demotion. Simmons wrote in his affidavit that Scott’s discipline was not for sexual harassment or discrimination.

“It’s sort of sounds like a vindication for me and partially a coverup,” Folkerth said. “What is a sexually hostile work environment where you have a supervisor using profanity and abusive behavior?”

Silvers, who now works as a part-time commissioned officer in another jurisdiction and a security supervisor for Penn National Gaming in Dayton, said she tried to complain up the chain of command to the Clay Twp. trustees but wasn’t allowed to by Scott, Van Gundy and Simmons.

“They just denied me seeing them,” Silvers said. “I had to fill out paperwork. I filled it out and they denied it.”