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City of Galt employee files suit for alleged sexual harassment

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Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 5:52 am, Wed Jan 4, 2012.

Galt attorneys are in mediation with hopes of settling a lawsuit filed by a current Galt city employee who claims the city did not protect her from provocative comments from a peer who has since been let go.

Angela Long contends that the city did not take reasonable steps to prevent alleged sexual harassment by former co-worker Michael Belser. He is also named in the lawsuit.

Long claims Belser used inappropriate slang in describing sexual acts and anatomy, and showed her nude photos on his phone and computer. Even after repeated complaints to her supervisors, Belser was not disciplined for months, according to Sacramento County civil court records.

City Manager Jason Berhmann said he cannot comment on ongoing litigation. The last mediation session was held Dec. 15, 2011 but there was no resolution.

According to court documents, Long works at the city's wastewater treatment plant maintaining operational equipment and taking samples. Court papers say she repeatedly complained about Belser to supervisor Bo Dahlberg, who she claims did not act quickly on those concerns. Dahlberg is currently the city's wastewater systems supervisor.

Long is not seeking a specific amount of damages in her suit.

In a deposition last summer, Dahlberg said under oath that just a couple of weeks after Belser began work, Long complained to him that Belser made sexual advances towards her when she was alone with him in a city truck, according to court records. Long allegedly demanded Belser stop the truck so she could get out.

But Dahlberg failed to follow the city's written anti-harassment policy, which requires a report to a manager or human resources within 24 hours, according to court records.

Instead, at various times Dahlberg gave Long the impression that he was working on it and suggested that there wasn't yet enough evidence to terminate Belser's employment, Long's attorney Matthew Stephenson said. Because of what Stephenson described as stress during August and September 2010, Long's pre-existing migraines and epilepsy conditions worsened.

After almost three months, Long said she learned that Dahlberg had yet to even talk to Belser about his conduct, much less report it to former Public Works Director Gregg Halliday or human resources, so she went to human resources herself. Long's attorney said Dahlberg had led her to believe that he would handle it.

Records show Belser was let go in fall 2010, shortly after Long reported his alleged behavior to human resources.

Long complained to human resources not only about Belser's harassment, but also that "Dahlberg failed in his supervision" when he did not take action to stop Belser and did not report her complaints as he was supposed to, according to court records.

In fact, in court documents, Long said Halliday called her into his office and "chastised her for not following the chain of command," and also threatened that she would not be able to keep her job if she did not pass an exam related to her job. Although she successfully did so, she was refused a raise or promotion to Besler's position after he was fired, according to Stephenson.

Halliday could not be reached for comment.

But in a response filed in May by Belser's attorney, Belser claimed Long was a willing and voluntary participant in the activities Long felt were harassment.

From day one of Besler's employment — which came a few weeks after Long was hired — Long kept detailed notes on Besler's work performance for ulterior motives to get him fired, Besler's attorney Carolee Kilduff claims.

Belser believes she made similar harassment complaints against other co-workers at prior places of employment, including waste transfer stations in the East Bay, but the allegations were never proven, according to court documents.

In a court appearance in November, both the access of Long's personnel files and her request to review Dahlberg's personnel records were blocked. Dahlberg, who is not a party to the litigation, declined to comment on both the allegations and the lawsuit.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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