Without admitting guilt to allegations of sexual harassment of Shauna Clark, Salt Lake County commissioners approved a $68,000 settlement Wednesday of Clark's $1.2 million civil suit against Ted Cannon and the county.
In the official commission meeting Wednesday morning, the three commissioners approved the settlement without any comment.However, outside the commission chambers, the politicians had a lot to say about the lawsuit that has grabbed headlines since May. Some of them blamed the media for exploiting Clark.
Clark, 27, filed her $1.2 million suit in the U.S. District Court for Utah in May 1987, accusing former County Attorney Cannon of sexually harassing her and the county of not acting to prevent the harassment.
Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom told reporters, "Shauna has been a victim not only of some actions that were inappropriate but of the news media and the things she had to go through in becoming a public figure."
A press release states that the county does not admit any liability and has vigorously disputed Clark's allegations.
The statement further says, "Clark is and always has been a diligent, competent and valuable employee. Her career with Salt Lake County is secure and will in no way be affected by her legal action against her employers."
Commissioner Bart Barker said the county responded as quickly as possible to the allegations of sexual harassment. He said Clark was victimized as much by people looking for political gain as by Cannon.
"Some of the difficulty she faced is a result of the publicity," Barker said. "She was receiving advice from people with their own agendas."
Barker said the settlement is fair. He said it will save taxpayers the expense of a trial, which would have exceeded the cost ofthe settlement.
He said Clark's accusations have led to stronger anti-discrimination ordinances in the county and to the hiring of a full-time equal employment officer.
Commissioner Dave Watson told the Deseret News, "I believe Shauna was victimized by her own attorney, who thrust her into a public situation she was uncomfortable with."
And Commissioner Michael Stewart expressed his relief in having the ordeal over, "If there's one positive note, it's that the community is now aware there is such a thing as harassment."
Earlier offers by the county to settle the suit had ranged from $3,500 to $30,000.
Of the $68,000 settlement, Clark received $25,000 in cash and a small annuity to pay for medical expenses. Nearly $28,000 will go to pay attorney fees, and the remainder will be spent on trial-preparation expenses.
Among the assertions against Cannon in her civil suit, Clark accused her former supervisor of "physical touching of a sexual nature which was unwanted" and using his authority to intimidate her to submit to his advances.
A few weeks after Clark filed her federal suit, Cannon entered a no-contest plea to two misdemeanor charges of assault, reduced from the original charges of forcible sexual abuse that had been handed up by a Salt Lake grand jury in October 1986.
The indictment named Clark and another secretary, Debra Sauers, as victims of forcible sexual abuse.
When Cannon entered his no-contest plea to assault, however, he made it clear that he was not admitting guilt to the sexual-harassment allegations.
Cannon served 25 days in jail for his no-contest plea to simple assault, his guilty plea to attempted misuse of public money and the convictions of criminal defamation and official misconduct all misdemeanors.
Cannon's standing with the Utah State Bar remains in question.