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Boner rejects sexual harassment allegations

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Boner rejects sexual harassment allegations | Bill Boner, Politics, GOP, Democrats, EEOC, Rutherford County, Property Assessors Office, Kathy Dumm, Janie Zumbro, Sexual Harassment, Tennessee

Rutherford County Property Assessor Bill Boner works in his office April 20, 2012, after allegations of sexual harassment by two former female employees were made public earlier in the week. (TMP Photo/D. Gardonia)
Despite allegations two female employees were fired in retaliation for complaining about being sexually harassed, Rutherford County Property Assessor Bill Boner said Friday he would not step down from office and will continue his bid for re-election this fall.

Although Boner said he could not comment on the sexual harassment allegations due to the ongoing investigation, he adamantly denied any wrongdoing.

“I cannot talk about it,” Boner said, about the discrimination complaints filed by former employees Kathy Dumm, 54, and Janie Zumbro, 70, with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Nashville.

But, he did discuss how the scandal is affecting him personally and politically.

“I would like this to be over with as soon as possible, so that everyone knows the truth,” he said. “My friends and family know what is true and not true.”

The 73-year-old Rutherford County native said he is upset because the allegations “have taken quite a toll” on his wife, Joyce Boner, who he has been married to for more than 50 years.

“As much stink as I raised about property taxes, making people pay what is fair – there have been people coming after me ever since,” he said. “I knew it would be rough, but I had no idea it would be this rough.”

Both women allege, however, Boner engaged in inappropriate behavior ever since he took office four years ago.

During an interview Wednesday, Zumbro said the allegations had nothing to do with politics, adding Boner was a longtime member of the Democratic Party before running in 2008 as a Republican.

“His actions and attitude toward working with ladies in the workplace is that he likes to be flirty with women,” she said. “He thinks it is funny. I do not think he is being malicious, I just think he is being unwise. … He ought to know when women are being offended.”

Zumbro said she “feels sorry for him because a man his age” should know how to behave correctly at work.

The two women were fired Nov. 2, 2011, less than three months after they reportedly complained about Boner to the Rutherford County Human Resources Department and resisted signing his petition for re-election.

In the complaints, Zumbro and Dumm accuse Boner of attempting to look down female employees’ shirts, making grunting sounds toward women, commenting about “sex with farm animals, and not needing a wife for sexual satisfaction.”

On several occasions, Boner, who owns a petting zoo, said “sexist comments about female customers who came into the Property Assessor’s Office” and asked employees to do cartwheels, according to the complaint filed by Dumm, who could not be reached for comment.

“Since (his) election in 2008, he has engaged in severe and pervasive sexually harassing behavior toward me and other women in the office,” Zumbro said, adding she did not complain prior to Sept. 16, 2011, for fear of losing her job.

“There was an overriding atmosphere of fear in the office based on statements Boner made that he could do whatever he wanted without repercussions,” she said, as part of the complaint.

Zumbro alleges it was not until September 2011 when Boner “told another female employee and me that we went to the bathroom so much, he was thinking of putting a port-a-potty in our office,” did she decide to report the incidents to the Human Resources Department.

“The next day, after another meeting regarding this subject, I was moved to an isolated work station,” she said. “This meeting was recorded, and I was given a copy. I believed this was retaliation for my complaint, and I was moved to keep from being a witness when (he) did or said something inappropriate to my co-worker.”

From that point forward until she was terminated, Zumbro said Boner held a number of staff meetings, one of which he told employees he would make his petition for re-election available if they wanted to sign it.

In reality, however, Zumbro said he pressured employees to support his re-election, noting while Dumm reluctantly agreed to sign the petition, she refused.

“I believe I was terminated for complaining of sexual harassment, in retaliation of complaining, and because I would not sign Boner’s re-election petition,” Zumbro said.

Attorney Anne C. Martin, who is representing both Zumbro and Dumm in the case, said Thursday it took courage to come forward, especially given the nature of this particular situation.

“Boner’s behavior was a huge part of the culture there,” Martin said. “This was commonplace behavior.”

However, Boner insisted the allegations are false, contending he, as well as his employees, have “always known not to cross the line."

“Before all of this, we were like a family here,” he said. “Now, we hardly even look at each other.”
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Bill Boner, Democrats, EEOC, GOP, Janie Zumbro, Kathy Dumm, Politics, Property Assessors Office, Rutherford County, Sexual Harassment, Tennessee
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April 22, 2012 at 8:54am
I seem to remember reports that the state was not happy with the way green belt status (or some such name) was being handed out in Rutherford County. This was a big tax break for developers. Mayor Burgess was told to straighten it out or the state would step in and do it. I tink that Boner hired two guys from the state who were specialists in those "rural" assessments. Some who were involved in the questionable assessments have been dismissed. Boner faced a lot of heat from developers who supported their own "chosen child" in the Republican primary but Boner won. Now Boner faces not only attacks from certain Republicans who probably are siding with Democrats to defeat Boner in the upcoming election. This tells me that Boner must be some honest assessments and whose ox is getting gored.
April 22, 2012 at 4:05pm
Although Mr. Boner has refused to comment in this article, he did comment in an April 18,2012 article for the Daily News Journal. He stated, “I’ve got 25 employees. You’re welcome to talk to any of them,” Boner said, noting the women still working for him are “a lot younger and better looking” than Zumbro and Dumm. Mr. Boner's own word lead credence to the very allegations that he so adamantly denies. He also confirmed in the same article that he made a comment about them using portable potties but said it was “in a joking way.” These women evidently made it known on more than one occasion that he was making them uncomfortable with his actions. He chose to ignore them. It is time the public and the "powers that be" took him to task for his actions. No one should be above the law. Although the public should be aware that Mr. Boner's office is what is termed a constitutional office, which means that Mr. Boner does not have a boss to answer to for his actions. He cannot be fired. This leaves all of his employees with no course of action if Mr. Boner "crosses the line". This is a situation that needs to be rectified. No one is above the law.
April 25, 2012 at 3:36am
this is old news being regurgitated... These ladies filed the same exact charges when they were fired. The county HR and county atty investigated the same charges... interview the entire staff... Bill Boner was CLEARED OF ALL/ANY CHARGES.

In fact, the two ladies offered to withdraw their charges if they would be rehired and allowed to sit next to each other...

this is a case of two slackers who got fired and tried to get revenge by falsly accusing their boss... when that didn't work they brought it back up through the Federal Gov't by claiming EEOC charges... He will be cleard again but throwing enough mud on the wall will still take its toll...
April 25, 2012 at 4:44pm
If this was happening while they were working there, why didn't they file the charges then? I wondered why they waited months to file this. It sounds like they wanted to spend all their time talking and not working.
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