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Georgetown denies claims of harassment

The city of Georgetown and former Mayor Lynn Wood Wilson deny the claims of a former city planning director that she was sexually harassed and that city officials retaliated against her for reporting the alleged harassment.

In a response to Sabrina Morris' lawsuit, filed in December, lawyers for the city of Georgetown and Wilson deny all of Morris' allegations of harassment and retaliation and offer a different version of events.

The response says that as far as city officials were concerned only one complaint was ever made by Morris against Wilson.

The complaint city officials heard was in a letter given to Wilson and other city officials in November 2008, "more than three months after the alleged offensive behavior occurred on or about August 21, 2008." Morris never reported the alleged harassment to her supervisor, then-City Administrator Steve Thomas, who has since become the assistant city manager in North Myrtle Beach, according to the response.

Morris' lawsuit alleges that while employed with the city of Georgetown, from January 2006 until her resignation in May 2009 she was subjected to sexual harassment in the form of "inappropriate and explicit comments, and other sexual comments and touching" by Wilson.

She reported the incidents to her supervisor and city officials "began treating [her] harshly in retaliation for reporting the lewd and inappropriate behavior," according to the lawsuit.

It goes on to say that city officials' inaction made them "wanton and intentional in the harassment."

But the city's response says officials took steps to prevent the conduct from recurring once it was reported in November 2008 and Morris "never again complained of further alleged offensive conduct."

The response also says that Morris did not comply with the city's policy on harassment, which requires "immediate reporting of offensive conduct."

The response also points out some issues with Morris' lawsuit, including that Wilson cannot be sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because he is not an employer and is not subject to personal liability.

It also says that punitive damages, which Morris sought in her lawsuit, are not available against a municipality and that the only way to "remedy" her claims of injury stemming from her employment is under the S.C. Workers' Compensation Act.

Morris' seeks to be paid her attorney's fees, all lost earnings and associated benefits, punitive damages and compensation for her pain and suffering.

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit against Georgetown County also has been filed. The city's response says the county "has absolutely no connection whatsoever to this lawsuit and should not be a party."

Calls to the lawyer representing the city and Wilson, Mike Malone, a lawyer selected by the S.C. Municipal Association's Insurance and Risk Financing Fund, and calls to the Wigger Law Firm in North Charleston, which is representing Morris, were not returned Tuesday.

The lawyers representing Morris and the lawyers representing the city and Wilson will meet sometime before Jan. 25 to discuss the lawsuit and to approve a schedule for motions and filings. A date for the trial has not been set.

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