ELYRIA — A Lorain County Jail guard has been given a three-day suspension for violating the Sheriff’s Office sexual harassment policy.
In addition to the three days off without pay, Corrections Officer Christopher Jackson, who has been a guard since 2007, received another seven days of suspension that he won’t have to serve. Sheriff Phil Stammitti also denied Jackson an October bonus.
Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Drozdowski said Jackson has appealed the suspension.
Jackson was suspended earlier this month following a lengthy investigation that began in May into allegations that he had made sexually charged comments to female staff members at the jail.
Jackson told investigators that he believes the allegations against him are the result of an affair he had 15 or 16 years ago with the wife of a former corrections officer and that he was looked upon poorly by his co-workers because of that.
A union representative told investigators that because of the affair, Jackson and things he says may be subject to more scrutiny than others.
Drozdowski wrote in his disciplinary recommendation that Jackson told him that three corrections officers were part of a conspiracy against him that stemmed from the affair.
According to the investigative report, Corrections Officer Paula Gorta reported that Jackson once made a sexual comment about strawberries one of them had brought to work. Later during that shift, they were by the vending machines and Jackson had a strawberry halfway in his mouth. Gorta said Jackson bet her she couldn’t get the strawberry out of his mouth.
She said she went up to him and bit the strawberry.
“She stated she was just joking around but realized that she may have gone too far and didn’t want to imply that she wanted more from him,” the report said.
Gorta said Jackson may have felt it went too far as well, and they avoided each other after that. She later ended up on the same shift with him again, and while he flirted with her he never made any sexual comments.
Gorta also reported that about three years ago Jackson made other comments to her about what he wanted to do to her. She said at first she thought he was just joking, but later realized it went beyond that.
Jackson denied that making sexual comments toward Gorta and denied that the strawberry incident happened. He said he “doesn’t walk around with strawberries in his mouth,” the report said. He said he only greeted Gorta and asked about trouble she was having with her knee.
Corrections Officer Pamela Gates told investigators that while Jackson had never made sexual comments or advances toward her, he once attempted to massage her shoulders. She said that she told him she “doesn’t play that way” and after that had no further problems with Jackson.
Jackson said he didn’t recall the incident and doesn’t believe it ever happened.
Guard Christine Kufel reported that she had two incidents with Jackson that made her uncomfortable.
In one instance, she received a call from Jackson inquiring about hair gel that she hadn’t fully smoothed into her hair and Jackson implied that it was ejaculate, according to the report.
In the second incident with Jackson, Kufel told investigators he came into the control room where she was working and told her “how good he was and he loved to have sex.” Kufel said that during the conversation she turned and her arm or hand brushed up against Jackson’s crotch and she could feel that he was aroused.
She told investigators that given the nature of the conversation and that he was standing so close to her, she felt the contact she had with him was intentional. Kufel said Jackson then continued to talk about his prowess and that someday she would find out.
Kufel told investigators that she replied that would never happen and Jackson then said he should probably leave.
She said she didn’t report it because she felt she had handled it and that soon after she and Jackson had a falling out and stopped speaking to each other. She also reported that she feared retaliation from Jackson and asked investigators to document her concerns.
Jackson told his superiors that he didn’t recall either the hair gel incident or the conversation about his sexual prowess with Kufel and later said that she wouldn’t let anything go and hated him. He did acknowledge that he and Kufel may have come into contact with each other because they were in a small room, but denied being aroused.
He said it was because Kufel had shorted him money when he plowed her driveway for her and later complained to his superiors about how she and another coworker had not properly paid him.
Counselor Stephanie Suter reported that while Jackson had never made sexual comments to her, he did say that he liked her hair down. The report said “she wasn’t particularly thrilled with the comments but she never felt uncomfortable about them to the point where it needed to be reported.”
Jackson acknowledged that he had complimented Suter’s hair but was joking and hadn’t meant anything sexual by it.
Suter also told investigators that when she started she was warned by a female co-worker to stay away from Jackson and not to get too friendly with him.
Nurse Courtney Hignett also reported incidents when Jackson made comments that made her uncomfortable, including one instance when he observed that she looked tired and she replied that she hadn’t been sleeping well. Jackson then said it was too bad they couldn’t be in bed together because they’d have to find something to do when they couldn’t sleep.
She also said on other occasions Jackson rubbed her shoulders, told her he loved her, wanted to kiss her and made comments about her looks. She also said he would hold doors open for her and stare at her.
Jackson said he never made inappropriate comments to Hignett but did acknowledge rubbing her shoulders and giving her a hug once when he saw her crying. He said the nurse was upset about an upcoming surgery and he was trying to comfort her.
He called her allegations about wanting to sleep in the same bed with her lies, according to the report. Jackson also told Drozdowski that Hignett may have complained because of a disagreement they had about an inmate at the jail.
Several other female jail employees on Jackson’s shift also were interviewed and while some said they’d heard complaints or gossip about him from coworkers they hadn’t experienced problems themselves. One woman reported that he had once asked for her number, something Jackson denied, while another woman said he once suggested she make dinner for him. Jackson said while she let him try a piece of Snickers cake she made nothing happened beyond that.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.