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Salt Lake County facing sex suit

Woman says she was harassed by chief deputy clerk

A woman who says she was sexually harassed by former Salt Lake County chief deputy clerk Nick Floros, and punished when she rejected his advances, filed suit in U.S. District Court Wednesday against the county.

Her cause appears to be helped by a letter, obtained by the Deseret Morning News, that District Attorney David Yocom's office sent to the woman last February.

Litigation chief John Soltis says in the letter that Yocom's own investigators concluded that Floros' behavior constituted "egregious violations" of county policy and procedure. They "concluded that your version of the events in question is more credible" and that "the evidence establishes that, more likely than not, (Floros) engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct and advances toward you and that he punished you for not reciprocating to his advances."

Even so, Soltis wrote that since Floros had retired at the end of January, "disciplinary action . . . is presently unnecessary."

Some County Council members and others have maintained that Yocom soft-pedaled the matter because of political and personalties to Floros, allowing him to retire instead of being terminated and declining to criminally charge him.

"I think that demonstrates how they have taken this whole thing," said the woman's attorney, Ralph Chamness. "It demonstrates a complete and utter lack of understanding of the workplace."

He also pointed to an e-mail sent to employees by Yocom's son, chief deputy clerk Jason Yocom, last month trying to buck them up in the face of news articles on the matter.

"A wise friend once told me, 'Don't sweat the small stuff — and you know what — it's all small stuff,' " Jason Yocom wrote. "So in case any of you are sweating this small stuff, please don't, we have too much work to do."

"There's the problem right there," Chamness said. "Everybody but the county thinks this is a problem. The idea that this is small stuff is just outrageous."

Jason Yocom declined comment for this article, but in the e-mail he appears to be referring more to the news articles about the harassment rather than the harassment itself, which he calls "a very sad and sensitive issue."

David Yocom declined comment on the suit because he hasn't seen it yet. He also said he wouldn't comment on the personnel investigation because he doesn't comment on cases as a matter of policy.

In the past, David Yocom has said he didn't charge Floros because "there was no allegation of criminal wrongdoing," but Salt Lake criminal attorney Craig Snyder, who represented Gary Gilmore and other high-profile defendants, said the allegations in the woman's notice of claim — a precursor to the suit — constitute sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.

"If that kind of conduct occurred in our office and some female employee complained about it, it's something that should be reported to the police," Snyder said.

In the suit, the woman alleges that Floros harassed her physically and sexually, touching her breasts and buttocks, pressuring her to have sex with him in various ways, exposing himself, rubbing himself against her and various other acts.

It also alleges that Floros answered her rejections by denying her a raise, denying her time off, belittling her and other actions.

The suit alleges that Floros had a history of harassing and belittling employees before County Clerk Sherrie Swensen hired him, and that Swensen knew — in fact, had been warned in writing — of that behavior.

Floros declined comment, as did Swensen, who referred any inquiries to Yocom.

According to two women who worked in the surveyor's office under Floros in the mid- to late 1980s, he has a history that other officials ignored.

Before the alleged events in the lawsuit, Shaunna Sanderseld and Dena Savas say, Floros intimidated and harassed them — screaming at them, slamming doors, even going to Sanderseld's house and harassing her there. They say their complaints to Yocom's office and Floros' superior went unheeded.

"I witnessed very negative treatment toward other employees, male and female," said Sanderseld, who worked in the recordation division of the surveyor's office. "I am surprised that the county has allowed it to go on as long as it did and that they did nothing when I complained. I was constantly being counseled by people to drop it — it was clearly a case of working the victim over and not the perpetrator. (Floros) was very close to Yocom and Karl Larsen (the surveyor at the time) and all those guys and they'd drink together and I knew nothing would be done."

"(Floros) really began to make our lives miserable," said Savas, who worked in the office with Sanderseld. "He was intimidating, mean, sneaky, he took every opportunity to embarrass and intimidate us. . . . Why did they allow that?


E-mail: aedwards@desnews.com