WEST UNION — A Fayette County district judge has scheduled a trial for February 2021 regarding a former West Union police officer’s discrimination lawsuit against the city, its police chief and its city administrator.
The jury trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., Feb. 3, 2021, at the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union, in Sgt. Sierra Fox’s lawsuit claiming she was the victim of sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation.
The trial is expected to last 14 days.
Fox said she was forced to resign in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination and harassment by Police Chief Paul Bechtold and City Administrator Nick McIntyre.
Fox was hired by the department in July 2015, under a different police chief and city administrator. She became the handler for the department’s police dog in February 2016.
Fox submitted her resignation on April 11 from the West Union Police Department after McIntyre told her she must resign or face termination at the West Union City Council meeting on Monday, April 15, according to court documents.
In her resignation letter, Fox asked that the police dog, Xena, remain in her care. She said the dog had been mistreated at the department prior to her bonding with it. The city denied that request and took back the dog.
Attorneys for McIntyre, Bechtold and the city filed an answer on Sept. 23 to Fox’s lawsuit. In it they deny any wrongdoing and said they would again take the same actions in regards to ending her employment.
The response also says that during the meeting about her potential termination, Fox was presented documentation of performance issues from before and after she filed the civil rights complaint. It furthers details those performance issues.
For example, in the last of the performance write-ups, McIntyre accused Fox of failing to properly respond to medical calls.
Fox says in her lawsuit that responding to medical calls “has always been an issue of officer discretion; every WUPD employee has to decide whether to respond to specific calls.”
The defendants’ response says: “Officer discretion in regard to medical calls is limited only to whether the Officer is already on a different call or is responding to a crime in progress. If an Officer is not actively engaged in a call for service, WUPD officers shall respond to calls for medical assistance as first responders.”
Fox says that in the instances referenced in write-up, her presence was not requested or she did not hear the calls.
The defendants say Fox was socializing with her sister before and after a medical call in question.
The city, Bechtold and McIntyre stand by their actions in regards to Fox’s employment.
“Even if some impermissible motive was a factor in any employment decision concerning Plaintiff, a claim that each Defendant expressly denies, Defendants would have taken the same actions or decisions in the absence of the alleged impermissible motivating factor,” their response says.