The man whose job is to help steer Spokane County government away from potential lawsuits will be sent home for four weeks for alleged sexual harassment.
It is the second time in five months that Risk Manager Claude Cox has been suspended without pay. In May, he was suspended for three days for cronyism and lying during an investigation into his hiring of a friend.
The suspension scheduled to begin Thursday will cost Cox $4,303 in lost wages.
Cox referred questions to his attorney, Donald Curran, who said Cox plans to appeal the punishment. Curran has asked county officials to delay the suspension until they hear the appeal.
“I would be inclined to deny that request,” said Jim Lindow, the county’s chief administrative officer.
County officials said they cannot discuss details of the case but will release written findings of their investigation later this week.
Another fairgrounds worker, Jim Cotter, was suspended for five days for his role in the conversation that got Cox in trouble.
Curran said Cox used the term “knocked up” in a joking manner while counseling another county employee about his personal life. He said Cox regrets using the “earthy phrase” during the conversation at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds.
Curran said Cox made the remark behind closed doors in the company of two men, and he wasn’t referring to anyone in particular.
Those circumstances don’t meet the county’s definition of sexual harassment as “unwanted, unwelcomed or uninvited sexual attention,” Curran said.
The woman who overheard and reported the remark was listening from outside the room, Curran said.
“Mr. Cox has rights of privacy which were violated by this eavesdropping person,” Curran said.
The woman, who has not been identified, supervises prison work crews used to clean the fairgrounds. Contacted through her supervisor at Geiger Corrections Center, she declined to comment.
County officials say the woman contends Cox was talking about her when he made sexual remarks.