THE TOWN OF PORT BARRE AND FORMER MAYOR LIABLE FOR DAMAGES IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT

Source: L. Clayton Burgess, A P.L.C. - 11/26/2013

Opelousas, LA – In an opinion issued November 21, 2013 by the Honorable Judge Alonzo Harris the Town of Port Barre and the former Mayor were found liable for sexual harassment of a former employee.

The law suit which was filed in state court in February of 2012 by L. Clayton Burgess, a professional law corporation, alleges that between 2010 and 2011, David Bell, an employee of the Town of Port Barre for 23 years, was subjected to repeated incidents of sexual harassment by former Mayor John B. Fontenot. The suit alleges that Mr. Fontenot approached Mr. Bell while he was at work and would make statements towards him regarding his sexual desires, telling him of his inability to maintain an erection, his lack of sexual desire for women, and his desire to only have intercourse with men, among other lewd gestures.  The behavior persisted throughout the period of time Mr. Bell was employed with the Town of Port Barre and Mr. Fontenot even showed up at the home of Mr. Bell on multiple occasions uninvited.

In March of 2011, Mr. Bell filed a complaint with the Port Barre Police Department against Mr. Fontenot following an incident in which he alleged that Mr. Fontenot had grabbed his crouch. No meaningful action was taken by the police agency and following the filing of the police report Mr. Fontenot is alleged to have admitted to Mr. Bell’s supervisor that the allegations filed by Mr. Bell were true. Despite Mr. Bell’s supervisor and other employees of the Town of Port Barre being made aware of the allegations no measures were taken by the Town of Port Barre to curtail the behavior.

In its opinion the Court indicates that the Town of Port Barre and John Fontenot are liable for sexual harassment of David Bell. The Court indicates that the Town, “knew or should have known of the hostile work environment, had the authority to control its own work sites to prevent the harassment form continuing, but however failed to take enough and more remedial actions.” The Court also found that medication being taken by Mr. Fontenot contributed to his behavior. The Court ruled that the defendants are responsible for general damages in the sum of $25,000.00, medical and attorney’s fees

The petition and judgement are public record and can be viewed at the St. Landry Parish Courthouse or online by clicking on the following links:

Petition for damages – http://www.scribd.com/doc/187355275/2012-02-29-Petition-for-Damages-David-Bell

Reasons for Judgement – http://www.scribd.com/doc/187359117/2013-11-21-Reasons-for-Judgement-David-Bell