City settles one sex harassment case against Page - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City settles one sex harassment case against Page; another accuser considers suing

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Paul Page stepped down from his city job as Director of General Services in October amid multiple sexual harassment allegations.

Two women claim page made sexual advances toward them in 2008.

Then, the federal equal employment opportunity commission investigated and urged Chattanooga to take action against page.

When page retired, the city said it was trying to settle with accusers, out of court.

The City of Chattanooga has made settlement offers to two women who filed claims of sexual harassment against Page.

"One of them has accepted; we were unable to reach agreement with the other," City Attorney Mike McMahan tells Eyewitness News.

The offer accepted, $7,500, went to Page's former administrative assistant, McMahan says. She remains a city employee.

The other, Lana Sutton, once taught fitness and yoga at the gym that Chattanooga maintains for city employees at 10th & Houston.

Sutton has declined to appear on camera, or to speak publicly about her claims or settlement negotiations.

But according to documents filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sutton alleges that Page pressured her repeatedly to have sex with him, leered at her and other women in her fitness classes in January 2009, and harassed women employed in other city departments.

Documents indicate Sutton maintains that she was terminated from her part-time job in February 2009 after complaining about Page to her supervisor and to the EEOC in 2008.

Eyewitness News tried repeatedly Wednesday, to reach Sarah Smith, Director of the EEOC's Nashville office. No calls were returned.

This past August, however, the EEOC ruled that "evidence exists that the charging individual and a class of individuals, were sexually harassed and retaliated against."

The ruling called for corrective action.

The Office of the City Attorney responded to the EEOC's findings via letter September 1.

The letter does not mention Sutton by name, but it denies her claims that she lost her job in February 2009 for alleging that Page sexually harassed her.

"The City submits that no evidence has been adduced to support this charge," Assistant Attorney Kenneth Fritz writes. "That is, the charging party was not identified as a witness or victim in the investigation about alleged sexual harassment by Mr. Page prior to December 8, 2008."

Fritz's letter states Sutton's class was canceled "due to lack of attendance" and had "absolutely nothing to do with an omnibus complaint by the Charging Party."

Page attached his own affidavit to Fritz's letter.

"I did not sexually harass the Charging Party,' Page's affidavit states. "I have not looked at or leered at the charging party while she conducted a personal training class on city property."

Page's letter concedes that he was required to complete training on preventing discrimination and sexual harassment, following an investigation into alleged conduct in 2007.

"I was humiliated and embarrassed by the investigation," the affidavit states. "In particular, I have specifically and intentionally avoided situations described by the Charging Party (Sutton).

Nevertheless, Page submitted his letter of retirement, effective immediately, October 4. At the time, he was earning $98, 462.25 yearly. He remains eligible for benefits based on six years' service.

The EEOC notified the City of Chattanooga by letter December 9 that efforts to conciliate Sutton's case have been unsuccessful.

"We are forwarding this case to the Department of Justice for a decision whether it will bring suit against (the City of Chattanooga)," the letter states. "If DOJ decides to bring suit, the Charging Party (Sutton) has the right to seek to intervene in the suit."

Lana Sutton says she hasn't hired a lawyer but that her lawyer friends have advised her not to comment until the justice department makes up his mind.

City councilman Jack Benson says he believes the city's offers to her were more than generous, but he won't get into dollar figures.

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