Sexual harassment allegations against Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden have surfaced in a Kansas City lawsuit by a woman who claims he repeatedly made unwanted advances toward her and groped her at dinner while she was in town on business in 2010.
The woman, Cynthia Sloan, filed the lawsuit against her then-employer, the engineering firm Tetra Tech, Inc., and her boss, saying she was encouraged to “endure sexual harassment from customers to obtain their business” and curry favor for the company. The “Mayor of Baton Rouge” was singled out as one of the people who sexually harassed her.
The lawsuit, filed in July 2011, came to light Wednesday when it was mentioned on the website of an alternative Kansas City weekly newspaper, The Pitch. The Pitch focused on the allegations in an article about a political campaign for a City Council race in Kansas City. One of the candidates, Teresa Loar, had been Sloan’s boss and was named along with the company as a defendant in the sexual harassment suit.
Holden is not listed as a defendant in the suit, which The Pitch said was settled out of court in 2012, but Sloan outlines in detail what she described as “sexually inappropriate” behavior by the “Mayor of Baton Rouge” in 2010. Holden, who took office in 2005, is never mentioned by name in the legal documents.
Holden, who is running for lieutenant governor this fall, did not respond to calls Wednesday seeking comment for this story. Members of his staff and campaign also did not respond to calls and emails.
Sloan, deputy director of Governmental and Public Affairs for Tetra Tech from December 2007 until November 2010, filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights alleging sexual harassment. The complaint was included as an exhibit in the lawsuit.
In her complaint, Sloan writes that she met the mayor of Baton Rouge at a legislative meeting in Washington, D.C., in March 2010, where he made advances at her in front of her boss.
She said they attended another conference together in June where he sent her a note on a napkin, as well as a bracelet and a book. He then invited her and other company members to Baton Rouge for business purposes, she said.
Sloan said she and members of her company went to Baton Rouge in July 2010, taking the mayor out to dinner.
“The Mayor insisted that I ride with him. Once at dinner, he became very hands (sic) with me — all in front of Teresa and others, including two vice-presidents of Tetra Tech. The Mayor touched my leg and between my legs several times. I repeatedly pushed his hand away.”
She said meetings continued over the next few days, and she had another dinner with the mayor, during which he wrote her a note asking her to come back to his room, which she declined.
The complaint also says that on Aug. 12, 2010, she was sent to Baton Rouge by her company for the mayor’s birthday party. Holden’s birthday is Aug. 12. Sloan said she agreed to have lunch with the mayor the next day, when he came to her hotel early and visited her room.
“While he was in my room he stated that he was doing so much for me, he just wanted to see and feel my breasts. I told him no,” she wrote. “We went to lunch. He wrote another note on a napkin.”
Sloan wrote that she told her boss in October 2010 that Holden had contacted her about staying in a room together in New Orleans for a party, which she declined.
“I stated that I know there is an expectation that I keep the Mayor happy, and that there have been numerous comments about me ‘taking one for the team,’ ” she said in her complaint to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. She said she “endured many sexual advances from that customer, including groping, texting, notes, etc.”
Sloan said she reported Holden’s actions to her company in October, though she claims many co-workers and supervisors had observed and commented on Holden’s advances toward her before then. She resigned from the company in November.
Sloan said she was told before she left that Tetra Tech was not selected for any of the city’s business.
In its response to her lawsuit, Tetra Tech denied most of the allegations Sloan made in her complaint to the Missouri Commission of Human Rights. However, Tetra Tech admitted Sloan traveled to “a city that was a potential customer, attended the birthday celebration of the mayor, and reported very favorably and positively on the trip and her contacts with the mayor and his wife during the trip.”
The company’s response also said that after Sloan’s manager learned for the first time on Oct. 12 of Sloan’s “concerns about alleged sexually offensive treatment by the Mayor of Baton Rouge, those concerns were immediately addressed, and there is not even any allegation of offensive conduct by the Mayor” after that date.
Neither Sloan, nor her attorneys, could be reached late Wednesday for comment.
The Pitch, in its article, says that Sloan’s lawsuit was settled in 2012. The newspaper reported that a Tetra Tech spokesman and attorneys representing Loar declined to discuss the terms of the settlement.
The website for the Jackson County courthouse says the case was dismissed in February 2012 with prejudice, meaning that no further litigation can be filed on the matter. The Pitch also reported that it reached out unsuccessfully to Holden several times for comment.
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