Fayette County Coroner under investigation for sexual harassment claims
LEXINGTON, Ky (WDKY) - On the heels of an investigation by the city, the Lexington Human Rights Commission is now looking into allegations of workplace sexual harassment involving Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn.
The allegations include "the use of sexual innuendo, banter of a sexual nature, and inappropriate comments," according to the November 15 findings by the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government's human resources division.
The investigation started in June after a former deputy coroner quit and raised concerns about Ginn and his office.
"The office environment itself was a very uncomfortable environment, a very degrading environment," Melissa Neale told Fox 56. "As my time wore on there, it became more difficult to be comfortable in my position and as a person in the office."
Neale accused Ginn of making off-color jokes and comments of a sexual nature about people of both sexes and referring to the genitalia of a male fetus as a "pecker." In its findings, the city substantiated six of the 13 allegations.
Full report from Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Division of Human Resources appears below.
While it funds the coroner's office, the city government acknowledged in its report that it has no authority over the elected coroner or employees in the office. However, after deliberating about Neale's request for an investigation, the city opened its investigation.
"I presented quite a few complaints in terms of a bunch of miscellaneous concerns and ethical violations I saw going on at the coroner's office," Neale said.
In its findings, the LFUCG found Ginn's actions would violate its code of conduct and would warrant administrative action if he was a city employee. It went on to recommend the coroner's office establish a harassment policy and enroll in training to prevent harassment.
"This is an ongoing investigation. It has not yet been completed. Yet as I understand so it's inappropriate for me to comment about that," Ginn told Fox 56 when asked about the allegations against him and his office. "But I can say that I have had a meeting with my deputies, and we will be having a retraining and updates on sexual harassment through human resources."
Neale, who worked for the Fayette County coroner's office for two years, is now a private contractor with the U.S. Army.
"Coming from a background of law enforcement, I did not think I was going to get this emotional," Neale said. "You have a duty to the public, to the people you serve. To be, one, respectful of the dead; two, respectful of the community that you are serving; and respectful of your people."
Coroners are responsible for death investigations. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Kentucky law does not specify any specific requirements to serve in the position while other states do.
Ginn, who was first elected coroner in 2002, faces a rematch in November with retired deputy coroner Larry Owens. In 2014, Ginn won with 61 percent of the vote.