Woman claims cover-up

Employee says she was told to delete emails, not talk about sexual harassment case

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John Settle

By Tim Farley
News Editor

John Settle, a Yukon newspaper publisher and assistant attorney general, told a female Pawnee County, Kansas, employee in 2016 to delete all emails and not talk about a series of alleged sexual harassment incidents, the woman claims in a discrimination claim filed two years ago.

Settle is co-owner of The Yukon Review and Chisholm Trail, LLC, and is employed as an assistant attorney general under Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.

The discrimination claim is part of a federal lawsuit filed last month in Kansas.

The 2017 claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges Settle failed to take action in connection with the sexual harassment complaint when working as Pawnee County Attorney in 2016, according to the claim filed by former Pawnee County employee Robin Rziha. The EEOC claim was filed Feb. 8, 2017.

Settle did not return three telephone calls for comment. Alex Gerszewski, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, also did not return multiple telephone calls for comment.

The EEOC complaint alleges after a series of alleged sexual harassment actions by Richard Boeckman, a former Barton County Counselor and Administrator, Rziha complained to Settle on April 19, 2016 about alleged sexual assaults and harassment she endured from Boeckman. As a county attorney, Settle was responsible for enforcing the county’s sexual harassment policy, the EEOC complaint states.

“Settle told Ms. Rziha not to talk about the incident with anyone and to delete all emails with Boeckman,” the EEOC claim alleges.

Rziha was employed by Pawnee County in its health department. As part of her job, she interacted with Boeckman, who at the time was employed by Barton County.

According to the EEOC complaint, Boeckman continued to stalk and intimidate Ms. Rziha by, among other things, telling her he was going to get a new job in Pawnee County that would require him to work with her and by bringing up false rumors about her.

The EEOC complaint states, “On October 4, 2016, Ms. Rziha reported the ongoing harassment to Mr. Settle, including her concern that Boeckman would come to work in Pawnee County. Ms. Rziha told Mr. Settle that Boeckman had told her he was under investigation for sexual harassment in Barton County. Still, Mr. Settle told Ms. Rziha not to talk about it.”

Rziha claims on March 22, 2016, Boeckman battered her when they were in an office together. According to the report, Boeckman played with her hair, grabbed her and attempted to put his tongue in Rziha’s mouth. In an earlier incident, Rziha claims Boeckman forced her to hug him. In a series of emails, Boeckman threatened Rzhia claiming he could get her fired. All of these alleged incidents were reported to Settle, the EEOC claim shows.

Settle, whose family has been involved in the newspaper industry for decades, recently sold Star Communication Corporation’s newspapers in Kansas to Main Street Media, also located in Kansas.

The federal lawsuit filed last month in Kansas alleges the Pawnee County Board of Commissioners engaged in unacceptable and illegal accounting practices connected to Aid to Local grant funds.

As part of her job with the health department, Rziha was required to oversee and report to the commissioners about the grant funds.

In the lawsuit, Rziha claims the commissioners commingled grant funds with the county’s general fund, misappropriated grant funds, used grant money to supplant other local agency funds and failed to meet minimum local tax support for local matches to qualify for the grants.