Attorney: Wright County Sheriff's Office Faces Workplace Harassment Investigation

January 18, 2018 05:48 AM

The attorney for a former Wright County Sheriff's Office sergeant told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the Minnesota Department of Human Rights is now investigating a harassment complaint filed by his client.

Attorney Robert Fowler said he has received word from the Human Rights Department on a complaint filed by former Wright County Sgt. Rebecca Howell.

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"Becky Howell filed a detailed and lengthy complaint with many pages of supporting documentation to the Department of Human Rights alleging harassment, sexual harassment and hostile work environment," he said.

Fowler said, at this point, he cannot get into specifics of the case. But he did say he recently received notification from the Department of Human Rights that an investigation is underway.

"And, where it is right now is the Department of Human Rights is going to conduct an investigation at this point, and there will be more information made public as it wraps up," he said.

Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey told KSTP he can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation. But he did say once the department opens a case, it is thorough and must have merit under the state's Human Rights Act.

"So, it could be a situation which constitutes sexual harassment, or you identified as being treated differently explicitly because of your gender, or it could be because your policies have a disparate impact on women," Lindsey said.

Sources told KSTP one instance of intimidation allegedly directed toward Howell involved a bullet left near her work space. Written on the bullet were the words "Complaint Department."

Sources said the bullet was left near Howell's work computer after she disciplined fellow Wright County Sheriff's deputies who happened to be men. 

And when she reported the incident, the source said, the sheriff's office did not conduct a full investigation into the matter.

KSTP reached out by phone and email to Wright County Coordinator Lee Kelly for comment on the investigation, but he has yet to respond.

Fowler said Howell is now a sergeant and third in command at the Meeker County Sheriff's Office.

RELATED: LIST: Notable Figures Facing Allegations of Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

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Jay Kolls

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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