Caledonia clerk implicates mayor, alderman candidate

March 7, 2013 10:11:28 AM

Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]


New information continues to come to light in the harassment complaint filed by a Town of Caledonia employee last week.  


An incident report obtained by The Dispatch Wednesday reveals that acting Town Clerk Krista Hill filed a workplace harassment complaint Feb. 26, alleging incidences of indecent language and sexual comments made in her presence, some directed at her personally by mayor George Gerhart and William Darnell, who is running at-large for an alderman seat in the June 4 municipal election.  


Hill, the granddaughter of former town clerk Judy Whitcomb, accepted the job Feb. 1 after Whitcomb's retirement. She had been working in the office as an assistant since November and is slated to continue as acting clerk through August. 


In her complaint, Hill says that early last Tuesday, she was at Town Hall with Gerhart and Darnell when Gerhart, who is not running for re-election, said he didn't know how she was going to deal with him until June 28, when he leaves office.  


"Lord, I don't either," she replied, prompting Darnell to respond, "I can bend you over and show you how," drawing laughter from the mayor. 


In another instance, Hill says Gerhart told her, "You better get on Brenda's good side (to get this job)," referring to alderman Brenda Willis, "because everyone follows her like a dog in heat." 


Hill indicates the sexually suggestive and indecent language was a problem from the beginning of her tenure.  


In her complaint, she notes another incident in the first week of February when Darnell, standing in the mayor's office with Gerhart, picked two items up from Gerhart's desk and placed them upon his chest, suggesting mock breasts.  


"Look how big mine are," he said to Hill, again prompting laughter from Gerhart.  


She also accuses Darnell, who sources say has a tendency to use foul language, of using the word, "mother--" in her presence.  


"Out of the many times of this occurring, Krista only remembers once that George said to William, 'Boy, you don't need to talk like that,' but Krista said she did not think it was meant to be for real, more like a joke," Deputy Town Marshal John Pevey notes in the report.  


Hill says that is the only occasion on which Gerhart has made any attempt to intervene.  


Pevey, who is investigating the case, told Hill she could file charges against Gerhart and Darnell, but she declined, saying she wanted to meet with the board of aldermen before taking further action.  


The aldermen received a copy of the complaint prior to Tuesday night's monthly board meeting and were advised by Town Attorney Jeff Smith to post a workplace environment policy at Town Hall and notify their insurance carrier and the Mississippi Municipal League of the complaint.  


The board called for a special meeting March 16 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the matter.  


Alderman Bill Darnell, William Darnell's uncle, said Gerhart and Darnell were going together to speak with William Darnell's parents Wednesday evening to notify them of the situation.  


Neither Krista Hill nor William Darnell returned messages left with family members Wednesday. Gerhart refused to comment.

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.