Two employees at the University of Akron, one of them the Republican candidate for Summit County sheriff, resigned Friday over a sexual harassment complaint a fellow UA employee had lodged.
Randy Rivers, commander of the UA Law Enforcement Training Center, said the university “railroaded” him and he would continue to run for the county’s top law enforcement post.
“I fully cooperated with the investigation, and in my opinion proved my innocence to the claim of hostile work environment,” he told the Beacon Journal in a phone interview.
Rivers’ supervisor, Michael Jalbert, who was accused of not responding to the employee’s complaints, said he had no comment.
The female employee filed a formal complaint with UA on Aug. 3 that Rivers had been sexually harassing her since he joined UA in July 2011.
The Beacon Journal generally does not identify victims of sexual harassment or sex crimes.
The university’s EEO investigator interviewed about 18 people, most of them employees, and concluded Rivers and Jalbert violated the school’s Sexual Harassment Policy, according to investigative notes UA provided under the state’s open records law.
According to the complainant, Rivers stared at her and made inappropriate sexual comments.
For instance, he allegedly told 34 cadets in an orientation class “not to get your mammaries in a bind” and that they would have to “put out.”
The employee responded by moving to a different office, changing her work hours and wearing button-up shirts.
“I am constantly worrying about the next work day and how I am going to avoid certain situations with Mr. Rivers,” she reported in her official statement: “I have a hard time concentrating on tasks while he’s sitting in my office staring at me and I want to hide when I hear him coming down the hallway.”
She complained to Jalbert that Rivers was “creepy,” according to Jalbert’s report of the events. He advised her to keep a journal.
“I asked on several occasions what if anything she wanted me to do and there did not seem to be any urgency,” the UA report quotes Jalbert as saying.
In July, Jalbert advised Rivers to take a leave of absence from his job until after the election because he was meeting with members of his political party and election team in his UA office.
On Aug. 3, the employee filed a formal complaint with UA’s human resource department.
Rivers, who became the part-time commander of the Training Center in July 2011, defended his behavior as appropriate and professional.
In his written statement responding to the allegations, he said he felt like he was being snubbed by the complainant and denied staring at her the way she alleged.
“There were times when there was nothing to do,” the investigator reported in recapping Rivers’ responses. “He would simply see if she wanted to get some coffee to break up the routine of the day. Most times she was on the phone, he would again wait.”
Rivers said he did tell cadets they would have to “put out” — in respect to physical conditioning.
“He stated that the times he did go in her office, she would have her ear buds on while typing. He would sit and wait until she finished. ... He felt he was being polite.”
Rivers said UA officials told him earlier this week he would have to quit or be fired. He said he was not allowed to defend himself and denied ever being told by the complainant or Jalbert that his behavior was inappropriate.
He said he would not allow the incident to derail his race for sheriff against Democrat Steve Barry of Green in the November election.
“I have not changed,” he said. “There are people out there in Summit County who know how bureaucracy and machines work, and they’re sick of it.”
Rivers has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 3 from the self-funded program. Last year, he made almost $44,000 as the part-time academy commander and as an adjunct instructor, UA spokeswoman Eileen Korey said.
Jalbert was paid $125,478 as an associate dean in UA’s Summit College and another $5,000 as interim director of the Training Center for Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, of which the Law Enforcement Training Center is a part.
He is tenured — meaning he has virtually lifetime employment — so he returns to the ranks of tenured faculty at a nine-month salary of $98,600, Korey said.
He will teach business technology.
Rivers will not collect any further pay or benefits from the university, she said.
Late Friday afternoon, UA blasted an email to employees reminding them it was their responsibility to read and understand the university’s policies regarding what constitutes sexual harassment and requirements for reporting suspected occurrences.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.