October 18, 1996 in Nation/World

Risk Manager In Trouble Again County Official Faces Discipline On Sexual Harassment Charge; Was Suspended Last Spring

By The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane County administrator who was suspended for misconduct five months ago is facing discipline again, this time for sexual harassment.

Risk Manager Claude Cox is accused of making sexual comments about a woman at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds.

Although county officials are still investigating Cox’s behavior, they’ve already punished another county manager for taking part in the conversation.

On Thursday, Jim Cotter was told not to report to work next week. Cotter, operations manager at the fairgrounds, will lose five days’ pay.

An unidentified woman who overheard the discussion in mid-summer complained about Cox’s comments on Sept. 3. The woman, also a county worker, told investigators the men were talking about her.

Cotter was punished because “you were present when the comment was made and failed to correct (Cox),” Francine Boxer, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, wrote in a Thursday letter to Cotter.

Also, Boxer wrote, “the investigation indicated that you made an additional comment, not heard by the complaining party.”

Details of the conversation were not released.

Contacted at his home Thursday night, Cox said the conversation was between himself and two other men. The woman was standing outside the room, he said.

“I used profanity and I shouldn’t have,” Cox said. “But I didn’t know she was there, I didn’t intend for her to hear.”

Cox would not comment further, saying he’s been advised not to discuss the case.

Cotter could not be reached for comment Thursday.

If an investigation finds Cox guilty of misconduct, his punishment could be far more severe than Cotter’s “on the basis of him being a repeat offender,” said county Commissioner Steve Hasson.

Cox was suspended for three days last May for cronyism and lying during an investigation to determine whether he showed favoritism in hiring a friend.

Cox earns more than $55,000 a year to minimize workplace accidents and the county’s exposure to lawsuits.

Cotter is the second fairgrounds official to be suspended in the last four months.

In June, county officials sent fairgrounds manager Paul Gillingham home for 10 days without pay after investigators found he had conversations about his sex life with a female guard. Gillingham denied harassing the woman.

, DataTimes

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