County Councilman files counterclaim in federal lawsuit

·3 min read

Sep. 3—Boone County Councilman Aaron Williams has filed a counterclaim in a federal lawsuit a county employee filed against him.

Boone County's Director of Human Resources Megan Smith in late July filed a federal lawsuit against her employer and Williams.

Smith claims in her suit filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, that the county was aware that a councilman sexually harassed her and failed to protect her from further harassment and retaliation.

"Williams engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct, including vile, disrespectful and insolent comments and unwanted touching," her attorney, Kathleen DeLaney of Indianapolis, wrote in Smith's complaint.

Williams' answer filed Tuesday said "the conduct alleged is not sufficiently 'outrageous' to state a claim ..." and lacks intent to inflict emotional distress.

Williams also asserts that he cannot be held liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, because he is an elected official and not Smith's employer.

Smith first sought remedy with Boone County Commissioners and the Boone County Council and later filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The EEOC in April issued no determination in the case and granted Smith the right to sue in federal court.

Williams filed an answer to her claim and his own counterclaim Tuesday and also filed a civil suit against Boone County Commissioner Tom Santelli.

Both lawsuits claim Smith and Santelli, with help from others, "concocted" a false and defamatory set of lies to harm his career.

Smith's and Santelli's false statements did significant harm to Williams' "personal, political and professional reputation in the community in all aspects of Williams' life," according to his counterclaim.

Their motive was that Williams questioned the expense and need for a proposed Boone County Justice Center instead of automatically approving it, along with a tax to fund it, at the commissioners' request.

Both of Williams' claims state that he questioned the $60 million project that includes expanding the Boone County Jail.

The original project, however, was estimated at $50 million to $55 million and had risen to $58 million in fall of 2021 when the Boone County Justice Center Commission was formed and Williams was appointed to lead it.

Commissioners claimed at one point that each week the project was delayed for more study would result in an extra $125,000 in inflation and increased materials costs.

Commissioners said they had studied the project for years before presenting it and suggested the Justice Commission was a ploy to delay approval of the project and the tax until after the May primary election and Indiana Republican Convention on June 18.

Williams won the Republican nod for his council seat in May, while Santelli lost the bid for his seat.

The Boone County Council approved the jail project under extreme pressure from commissioners and others on June 14, and Council President Elise Neishalla lost in her bid to become state treasurer at the Republican Convention just four days later on June 18.

Conversations among council members and commissioners were often heated during their own regular meetings, justice commission meetings, and public hearings for months.

Williams' and Smith's claims are available to download in their entirety at reporter.net.