The sheriff of Ontario County, Kevin Henderson, is being accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. That's according to the County Administrator following a Public Safety Committee Meeting on Wednesday.
"There are questions that remain unanswered, that the board feels they need to get to the bottom of," said Ontario County Administrator Chris DeBolt.
What You Need To Know
- Sheriff Kevin Henderson is being accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, according to County Administrator Chris DeBolt
- DeBolt says an investigation shows "several" people in the sheriff's office are making the allegations
- Henderson says he has no plans to resign at this time
"There had been an anonymous complaint regarding a sexual harassment investigation within the sheriff's office, and he had demanded of the HR department to hear the audio recording of the anonymous complainant so that he could identify the complainant," said DeBolt, describing an incident he says took place at the end of 2020. "And when the HR department denied that, he called me and indicated that he felt it was his right to hear the audio recording so he could identify the anonymous complainant. I explained to him that that was not our procedure and that was not appropriate. And he said words to the effect of, I need and I deserve to hear that recording, I know who's doing this, and if I can find them I'm going to go after them and nail them to the wall."
DeBolt says after learning that other employees had come allegedly come forward, the Board of Supervisors brought in outside counsel that hired an independent HR investigation firm. It conducted a five-month-long investigation.
"What they found was disturbing, to say the least: comments made by the sheriff to employees of a sexual nature, comments made of a sexual racial and homophobic nature, some of which were made in the sheriff's presence," DeBolt alleged.
Asked about how many people have come forward, DeBolt said, "several." He says about 70 to 75 people current and former employees were interviewed for the investigation. "So the volume of interview material that we have gone through and are continuing to go through is voluminous."
The committee voted on Wednesday to pass the resolution allowing for subpoena power and to further investigate.
DeBolt added, "You might ask, 'why are we doing another investigation when we just concluded a five-month investigation?' The sheriff was provided the opportunity to participate in our investigation with his counsel present and provide any documents and corroborating evidence that he wanted to. He chose not to do that."
DeBolt says the impact this situation is having on the sheriff's office is immense.
"The morale is horrible," he said. "We have a number of openings on both the road and the jail side that we cannot fill on both sides. People are being mandated to work extra overtime shifts because we just don't have enough deputies on either side. County officials do not have the authority to fire the sheriff, as it is an elected position. He could be removed from the job if he was convicted of a crime that bars him from holding office, or the governor could remove him from the position or he could resign."
While Sheriff Henderson has yet to return Spectrum News 1's calls regarding these accusations, he did release a statement prior to the meeting stating that has no plans to resign.
The committee's efforts will be acted on by the full Board on Thursday evening.