Morgantown Police Department employee sues city over release of personal information related to sexual harassment complaint

Monongalia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A Morgantown Police Department employee has sued the City of Morgantown over the release of personal information related to a sexual harassment incident in 2016.

The plaintiff, identified as “H.M.” in court documents, is being represented by Toriseva Law.

Court documents outline an incident from February 2016, in which H.M. was sexually harassed during a shift briefing. In that incident, a police officer questioned her about having sex with other city employees.

The lawsuit states that the incident was handled internally by the police department, and it was resolved to H.M.’s satisfaction.

In December 2020, a “non-profit collaborative news site” filed a Freedom of Information Act request for “all materials and records describing and sufficient to show/disclose all allegations of misconduct made and all disciplinary proceedings taken against any officer, employee, or representative of this policing agency,” referring to the Morgantown Police Department, the lawsuit explains.

Further, it states that in January 2021, the police department released the information to the website, which then published it. Included in this information were reports and documents related to the sexual harassment incident.

The lawsuit claims that the information related to the sexual harassment was not redacted or obscured prior to being released to the website, thereby identifying H.M. and victimizing her again. It also states that public records request regulations in Morgantown require the FOIA officer to “remove or redact information that is not responsive to the request or exempt from disclosure by FOIA or other applicable law, rule or privilege.”

Moreover, according to the lawsuit, the records to be released would have been reviewed by the police chief, city attorney and the FOIA officer, but no one redacted or obscured the information.

The lawsuit brings five counts against the city: negligence; invasion of privacy; negligent infliction of emotional distress; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and negligent retention, hiring and supervision.

The plaintiff requests a jury trial in the case.

The City of Morgantown declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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