2011-10-29 / News

Commissioner faces sexual assault charge

By Scott Rawdon

NEW LEXINGTON – A Perry County commissioner is charged with sexual assault, and his fellow commissioners and an agency director are charged with ignoring events that led to the incident.

Angel Baughman, former Perry County Emergency Management Agency administrative assistant, filed a complaint and grand jury demand in Perry County Common Pleas Court stating that Commissioner Lonnie Wood on or about Oct. 19, 2010 entered her office and forcibly groped her “by exposing her breasts, grabbing her from behind, and forcibly kissing her,” according to the complaint. She said Wood’s conduct was “outrageous and shocking, and done with the intention of harassing, intimidating, and harming” Baughman. She said the experience was traumatic and caused her to seek counseling and miss work hours. Baughman said she sustained damages from the incident in excess of $25,000.

According to the complaint, Baughman said her boss, Emergency Management Agency Director Rita Spicer, knew of Wood’s actions, witnessed Baughman’s repeated harassment “on a daily, if not weekly basis” and did nothing to protect her. Baughman said Wood made sexual jokes, advances, and unwelcome contact, which eventually led to the assault incident October of last year. The complaint states that Perry County commissioners Fred Shriner and Ed Keister also knew of the harassment leading to the assault and did nothing to stop it.

Additionally, Baughman said Spicer wrongfully terminated her position on or about July 6 while Baughman was on “indefinite medical leave” seeking counseling for the trauma the sexual assault incident caused her. Baughman stated that prior to being terminated, she reported Wood’s actions to Spicer, who, according to the complaint, called Baughman a “liar,” treated her rudely, ignored concerns about her own safety while working alone in the office, then fired her as a result of her complaints against Wood. The complaint states that the wrongful termination caused damaged to her in excess of $25,000.

“It’s making sure the rules are enforced” and people have a safe work environment, said Baughman’s attorney, D. Joe Griffith. “That’s what this case is about.” He declined further comment.

“Everything’s under litigation,” said Wood, who also said he was unable to comment further because of the ongoing investigation.

Spicer’s termination letter to Baughman, dated July 5, said, “This is to notify you that your employment with Perry County EMA is terminated as of Friday, July 8, 2011. The reason for your termination is job abandonment.

“You have not provided proof of absence for five days, nor have you made any effort to respond to my inquiries regarding your current status/absence,” Spicer’s letter stated.

Tuesday, Spicer said Baughman had several absences with a doctor’s notice following October 2010, but this summer she was absent without notice or doctor’s excuse for five days and didn’t return Spicer’s calls. Spicer said Baughman was given an opportunity to return and discuss the situation. Spicer had no further comment.

Perry County Prosecutor Joe Flautt said he couldn’t comment on the facts of the case because he’s not representing the county on any of the issues. “The county’s insurance company will defend the civil lawsuit,” he said. “I have asked the attorney general to review the criminal allegations.” Flautt said he legally couldn’t manage the criminal aspect of the case because technically he’s Wood’s attorney while Wood is commissioner. “It’s my belief that the most serious criminal offense would be a misdemeanor of the third degree, which carries a maximum possible penalty of 60 days in the county jail and a $500.00 fine,” said Flautt, who added that in his experience as county prosecutor, he didn’t believe that Wood was ever previously charged with anything similar.

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