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Investigator releases complaint results

Attorney Pam Reeves released her findings on Farragut Public Relations Coordinator Chelsey Riemann’s complaints of sexual harassment from former Town Administrator Dan Olson Thursday, Feb. 5.

Five days later, Riemann filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Ultimately, I did not determine that the actions of Olson with regard to Reimann [sic] at that time were sufficient to satisfy the standards for illegal sexual harassment,” Reeves stated of her initial investigation in May 2008.

In late September 2008, Reeves investigated a complaint by Associate Town Administrator Gary Palmer, and another by Riemann in November.

Again, Reeves stated: “I do not find that the incidents involving Chelsey Reimann [sic] and Dan Olson in October and November of this year constitute actionable sexual harassment.”

According to Reeves, four specific incidents over a period of two years “did not rise to the level of creating a pervasive, hostile work environment and therefore would not constitute actionable sexual harassment.”

“The fact that [Riemann] is uncomfortable working around [Olson] does not, by itself, create a hostile workplace in violation of Title VII or the THRA.

“It is my opinion that reasonable, objective people would not find the actions complained of by Reimann [sic] to be abusive, hostile or threatening because of sex.”

“I assured [Riemann] that while I did not believe that Olson’s conduct was in any way severe or pervasive enough to rise to the level of actionable sexual harassment, that I would suggest you [Town Attorney Tom Hale] speak to Olson and emphasize to him the need to remain professional in his dealings with his subordinates,” the memo stated.

Likewise, Reeves did not find much substance to Palmer’s complaint that Olson retaliated against him because of various disagreements, including the fact Olson’s household received free TDS television service as part of a test group.

“While there is clearly a major rift in the professional relationship between Palmer and Olson, I can not find that Olson is retaliating against Palmer because Palmer raised concerns about Olson’s continued sexual harassment of subordinate female employees, because Palmer objected to the pornography in the desk or because Palmer raised concerns about Olson’s participation in the TDS fiber optic cable project,” Reeves’ memo stated.

Her objections to the legitimacy of Palmer’s complaints were largely due to timing: Olson simply was not aware of Palmer’s involvement in the various disagreements at the time of Palmer’s complaints.

However, Reeves agreed Olson’s behavior, both in regard to Riemann’s and Palmer’s complaints, “indicates a lack of judgment on [Olson’s] part,” and that his leadership abilities have been questioned.

“For whatever reason, Olson’s ability to interact effectively with staff, both male and female, appears to be challenged.”

A response to Riemann from Mayor Eddy Ford, dated Feb. 18, stated: “The Town is committed to seeing that you and all of our employees work in an atmosphere free of harassment. We appreciate you bringing your complaint to the Town’s attention.”

Ford’s memo also stated the Town agreed with Reeves’ assessment that Olson’s actions “do not rise to the level of unlawful sexual harassment.”

By the time the memo was generated, Olson already had resigned his post as administrator.

“It is our hope that you can put this issue behind you and continue a rewarding career with the Town of Farragut,” Ford’s memo states.

Also Feb. 10, the day Riemann filed a complaint with EEOC, her attorney, David Burkhalter, filed a notice of non-spoliation with Hale, asking e-mails between several Town employees and all elected officials be preserved.

Town received a similar notice in October from Burkhalter, who also is representing Palmer.


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