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Jury rejects harassment claims against Whitman assessor

A federal jury rejected claims by an employee of the Whitman County Assessor’s Office that she’d been subjected to a “sexually hostile” work environment due to the alleged actions of her boss.

Four women and four men last week threw out a civil lawsuit filed by Brenda Arthur against elected Whitman County Assessor Joe Reynolds, who has held the office since 1991.

Arthur alleged physical touching and inappropriate sexual statements were made by Reynolds, for whom she has worked since 2000. Attorneys for Reynolds and the county successfully argued those alleged statements were not witnessed by others and that workplace “adult talk” was the result of a “relaxed” atmosphere resulting from several employees who have worked in the office for years.

Reynolds had been the subject of other sexual harassment complaints, according to internal county documents filed by Arthur. But attorneys for Reynolds argued Arthur’s claims against the assessor followed his refusal to honor a raise in pay that Arthur believed she had earned.

Reynolds is running for re-election against Jim Hawkes, a current appraiser in the Whitman County Assessor’s Office.