By Tom Sheehan, Dispatch Staff ReporterMORROW COUNTY, Ohio --The sheriff's office employee who last week filed a sexual- harassment and assault lawsuit against the sheriff is being investigated for her handling of payroll records, including her own overtime for 2000 and 2001.
The Columbus Dispatch
Prosecutor Greg Perry said the investigation of Tami Morrow began in mid- January after the county auditor noticed possible discrepancies in the payroll records involving Morrow's overtime. Morrow was paid about $ 38,000 last year, thousands more than her regular salary, Perry said.
"She's a civilian employee making more than most of the road deputies,'' the prosecutor said. "This raised some eyebrows.''
Perry said he did not know how payroll problems could go unnoticed by Morrow's supervisors for so long, but added his office is looking at that, too. He said Sheriff Tom Harden confronted Morrow about the overtime on Feb. 14.
The Columbus lawyer representing Morrow in her federal lawsuit against Harden said that Morrow had Harden's permission to earn the overtime.
"The overtime is payroll stuff, the kind of work she could take home,'' attorney Jon Browning said.
He said Morrow, who earns about $ 12 an hour, did a lot of the overtime work while at a part-time job monitoring an after-school detention class.
"It maybe looks bad, but she has the ability to do two jobs, and the sheriff knew it,'' Browning said. "Tami is willing to sit down with investigators and explain her side.''
Morrow, who joined the sheriff's department in 1995 and is an administrative assistant, has been on paid sick leave since Feb. 14.
In the lawsuit filed Feb. 27 in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Morrow alleges that Harden sexually harassed and assaulted her on a number of occasions beginning last June after Morrow's husband left her.
The suit says Harden told Morrow that he knew she would be having a difficult time financially and that she could work overtime to help meet her bills.
Morrow alleges that the sheriff touched or squeezed her breasts and buttocks on several occasions. She also accuses him of trying to initiate a sexual relationship with her. The suit says that when Harden met with her on Feb. 14 he told her they could work out any problems involving the overtime if she was receptive to his advances.
The sheriff has been on medical leave since last week with an undisclosed ailment, but has issued a statement through Chief Deputy Steven R. Brenneman saying he is shocked and extremely upset by Morrow's allegations. The sheriff strongly denies the allegations, Brenneman said.
The chief deputy said this week that Harden is unavailable for further comment.
Perry said he did not wish to elaborate on the federal lawsuit against the sheriff.
"There is no indication whatsoever of any complaint of this nature against the sheriff until the sheriff advised Mrs. Morrow there were some questions about the payroll,'' he said.
The prosecutor said a Columbus law firm has been retained to represent Harden in the federal lawsuit and that the prosecutor's office will act as co- counsel.
Perry said he didn't know how long it would take to complete the payroll investigation.
Copyright 2001 The Columbus Dispatch
Employee who sued Ohio sheriff under investigation