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State

Sheriff’s former secretary accuses him of harassment

EDWARDSVILLE – A southwestern Illinois sheriff’s secretary was transferred to another job after she complained of a hostile working environment, alleging her boss harassed and tried to pursue a romantic relationship with her, though no criminal charges will be filed, the county’s top prosecutor confirmed Thursday.

The complaint levied against Madison County Sheriff Bob Hertz doesn’t involve allegations of criminal wrongdoing, said Tom Gibbons, the county’s state’s attorney. Gibbons said the county acted “nearly immediately” to address the woman’s grievances, transferring her to another job with the county.

– Wire reports

The complaint was obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat through a Freedom of Information Act request. In it, 37-year-old Jaimie Linton alleges that Hertz repeatedly threatened her job, questioned her character, followed her during lunch hour and threatened to have a private investigator pursue her. A memo with the complaint indicates that county officials investigated her allegations.

“The complaint was that it was a difficult working environment [between Linton and Hertz], but that situation has been taken care of,” Gibbons told The Associated Press. “The county takes very seriously the well-being of citizens who work for it.”

Hertz, who has been sheriff since 2002, directed questions to Gibbons, saying Thursday that “now’s not the time or the place for me to weigh in at this time.” Gibbons’ office represents county employees in their official capacities.

Linton didn’t immediately return phone messages Thursday.

According to her complaint, the sheriff sent her emails unrelated to work and would become angry if she didn’t quickly respond. In one email exchange, the complaint alleges, Hertz wrote in September 2012: “I know, I think how you are and I hope you are with me and how I want things to move forward. Are you there? I can only hope. Keep me posted, please. I will be there for you ... I need YOU to be there for ME.” An hour later, Linton replied: “I am here Sheriff ... Be safe.”

When Linton told Hertz he was creating a hostile work environment, her complaint alleges, Hertz’s “intimidating and strange” behavior continued, though he never made any physical advance toward her.

Her complaint also included a memo from the county’s administrator, Joseph Parente, telling Linton that the county’s investigation of the complaint found that “the alleged conduct could have happened and that there was evidence that corroborated the allegations.”

Parente said he would have recommended that Hertz no longer supervise Linton had she stayed at the sheriff’s office, and that any further behavior or retaliatory action from Hertz would be “addressed.” Parente didn’t return a phone message seeking comment Thursday.

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