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December 10, 2001
Calif. Official Claims Sexual Harassment
A s
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enior employee of Ventura County, Calif., has sued the county, saying she endured a hostile work environment after spurning sexual advances from her 70-year-old boss.

Terry Dryer, 51, claims that the stress resulting from the criticism and verbal abuse she took from former County Administrator Harry Hufford forced her to take a leave from her position as chief deputy administrative officer in February.

The Los Angeles Times, citing court documents, reports that Dryer alleges:

  • Hufford's attitude toward her changed after she turned down his repeated requests to meet him alone after working hours.

  • Hufford retaliated by taking away important job assignments and was demeaning toward her in front of other senior managers.

  • The county's Human Resources Department took no action when she complained about Hufford.

Dryer went on disability leave when it became apparent she would get no help, said attorney, Donald M. Adams. "It was the boss who was doing it," he told the Times. "She had nowhere to go but out."

The lawsuit names the county and Hufford as defendants. Dryer is seeking $1 million to compensate for lost earnings through age 65 and other unspecified damages.

County Counsel Frank Sieh called the suit "meritless" and said the county will "do everything possible to defeat it."

The Times said Hufford could not be reached for comment.

The county is investigating Dryer's claim that Human Resource officials failed to act on her complaint that Hufford had behaved inappropriately toward her and another female employee whom Dryer supervised, Sieh said. That second employee is not identified in the lawsuit.

"I don't have any details on that, so I wouldn't want to speculate," Sieh said.

Hufford stepped down in March after completing a temporary assignment as the county government's top executive. Hufford was chief administrative officer for Los Angeles County from 1974 to 1985 and again in 1993 when that county was facing a financial crisis.

Dryer began her county career in 1973 as a typist. She worked her way up to become a chief deputy administrative officer, a position that pays $111,000 in salary annually, plus $40,000 in benefits.


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