Housing Authority employees accuse executive director of sexual harassment
Posted: Dec 22, 2011 2:08 AM EDT | Updated: Nov 6, 2014 3:05 PM EDT
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Two men, including a top police official, have come forward to say South Bend Housing Authority Executive Director Marva Leonard-Dent sexually harassed them at work.
Now, the men want her fired and millions of dollars.
As head of the Housing Authority in South Bend, Dent earned an award in 2006 from the state. She was named Executive Director of the Year by Indiana's chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment.
The claims range from inappropriate comments to inappropriate touching. One man says Dent would slap his butt and hit him in his privates. The other accuser says she even took off her blouse and flashed him at one time. The men say they have had enough, which is why the pair has decided to take legal action now.
Archie Robinson III has been working as a contractor for the Housing Authority for seven years now.
Robinson says shortly after he won a contract doing work for the agency, Dent started making sexual advances in the office and says at first it seemed innocent enough.
"She'd ask who I was dating, if i was seeing anyone. Then it progressed to touching and hugging".
Robinson says the sexual harassment continued for four and half years, but says Dent's position of power made him feel helpless to make it stop.
"It was a hard environment to work in, but with the way the economy the way it is you have to do what you have to do, so you try and ignore it and you try to stay away from it".
Robinson says he finally got to his breaking point when Dent slapped him across the face during one of their encounters.
"I'm angry. I am very angry because I still had to work with her and smile everyday and pretend everything was OK".
Robinson was not alone. A part-time security guard, Lt. Marcus Wright of the South Bend Police Department, says he too was sexually harassed by Dent.
So, the two finally decided to hire a lawyer.
Now, Robinson and Wright are asking for Dent's removal from her position, along with a 5 million dollar settlement for each of them.
Robinson says it's a lot of trouble to go through, but says he is only doing this to make sure this kind of thing does not happen to any other employees.
According to Robinson and Wright's lawyer, the board is conducting an internal investigation. So far, Dent has not been suspended or asked to take any leave for an investigation.
ABC 57 News tried contacting Dent and her lawyer, but was not able to talk to anyone.
ABC 57 News also went to Dent's house to see if she would be willing to talk in person. Although lights were on inside the Dent residence, no one answered the door.