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Suit accuses officials of harassing women

The lawsuit also alleges unfair pay for women at the state Board of Administration.

By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 20, 2002

The lawsuit also alleges unfair pay for women at the state Board of Administration.

TALLAHASSEE -- Debby Minot, director of human resources at the agency that controls the state's pension fund and other investments, on Monday accused several state officials of sexually harassing women and failing to pay them as much as the "good ol' boys."

Minot filed suit in federal court in Tallahassee under the federal Civil Rights Act. She says women at the state Board of Administration have been forced to touch one supervisor's penis and repeatedly have been subjected to other forms of discrimination.

Minot said when she attempted to investigate the complaints, Tom Herndon, then director of the agency, threatened her and subsequently placed her on administrative leave. She has remained on paid leave since April.

She contends that Herndon and Coleman Stipanovich, the deputy director who took Herndon's place after he resigned earlier this year, have created a hostile work environment.

Minot says she has been denied the right to take her complaint to Gov. Jeb Bush, Comptroller Bob Milligan and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher, the three members of the Cabinet who govern the state agency.

In the lawsuit, filed by Tallahassee lawyer Kent Spriggs, Minot seeks back pay, unspecified damages, attorney fees and a jury trial.

Stipanovich, appointed this month to head the agency, said Minot's allegations have been thoroughly investigated by professionals who found no wrongdoing.

"We are confident her claims will fare no better in a court of law," Stipanovich added.

In addition to harassment and retaliation, Minot said the agency has systematically refused to pay women the same as men who work at the agency in similar jobs.

An inspector general's investigation of Minot's charges rejected them in a report issued last month. Minot called the report an attempt to "whitewash" the agency.

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