County pays $300,000 to settle
sheriff's sexual harassment suit

(MARTINEZ, Calif.) -- Contra Costa County has agreed to pay $300,000 to a former county emergency planner who says a sheriff's captain sexually harassed and retaliated when she complained.

The damages are in a lawsuit settlement negotiated by attorneys for the county and for Barbara Cimino, formerly a senior planner in the county Office of Emergency Services.

The county Board of Supervisors will consider approval of the settlement Tuesday.

It is one of the largest settlements the county has paid for sexual harassment, officials said.

Cimino, a 45-year-old Danville resident, contends she had to quit her $56,900-a-year county job because her boss, Capt. Ovid Holmes, created a hostile work atmosphere through sexually charged remarks at work and on business trips.

"Your legs are too distracting for me to concentrate," Cimino quoted Holmes as saying.

During a business trip dinner with Cimino and several other county employees, Holmes boasted of a sexual conquest, according to Cimino's claim.

"He made life miserable for her," said Stan Casper, who sued the county on Cimino's behalf

Holmes, San Ramon's police chief from 1990 to 1995, retired from the county earlier this year.

Ron Harvey, the county risk manager, said county managers decided it was wise to settle this case rather than risk larger damages in a trial.

"Without getting into the facts of the case, any time you look at a settlement in that range, there is a significant liability issue," Harvey said.

Cimino was working for the Office of Emergency Services in October, 1997 when it was put under the command of Sheriff's Office and Holmes was appointed director.

Cimino alleged that when she complained about the Holmes' sexually charged remarks, she was pulled off important projects, and assigned clerical ones.

She also claims she was unfairly denied a promotion and threatened with discipline.

The Sheriff's Office conducted two internal investigations of Cimino's complaint and found no substantiation of sexual harassment, county officials confirmed.

The Sheriff's Office did discipline Holmes for other reasons after the investigations, said Kathi Holmes, the county undersheriff who is unrelated to Ovid Holmes.

Kathi Holmes said she could not disclose the discipline or reasons for it.

The undersheriff said the Sheriff's Office doesn't tolerate sexual harassment and has policies and training to prevent it.

Contra Costa County settles sex-harassment suit for $300,000
By Denis Cuff
December 5, 2000, Tuesday
Copyright 2000 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
Contra Costa Times
December 5, 2000, Tuesday
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