High Level Harassment?

Lawsuit says president of Truckee Meadows Community College retaliated against colleague who refused to join him in a hot tub.
March 20, 2006

The former top fund raiser at Truckee Meadows Community College has sued its president, charging him with sexual harassment after she rebuffed his invitation to get in a hot tub with him.

The suit is also against the Reno, Nev. instititution, which the former fund raiser holds responsible for the harassment, in part because, she maintains, the college ignored previous allegations about the president's treatment of female employees.

The president, Philip Ringle, and the college issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Anne L. Bennett worked at Truckee Meadows from 1979 until 2004, when she retired. Bennett's lawsuit says that she was essentially forced to quit following a series of incidents in which Ringle demeaned her, threatened to move her office, and discussed changing her job responsibilities. Bennett asserts that these incidents all followed an invitation from the president, which she rejected, to go out to dinner with him and to then join him in a hot tub. In inviting Bennett, Ringle noted that his wife would be out of town, Bennett's suit charges.

The lawsuit also cites evidence that the former head of affirmative action at the college received two other complaints from female employees about the president. One woman reported a similar invitation to dinner and time in a hot tub when the president's wife was out of town, the suit says. It adds that another woman reported "essentially stalking behavior" by the president, including following her to the women's restroom and waiting outside. According to the suit, these woman complained about their treatment to the affirmative action officer, but declined to file formal charges for fear of retaliation.

Mark Mausert, Bennett's lawyer, said that she is currently working for a foundation at about half of the salary she earned at Truckee Meadows. He said that salary was in the low six figures.

A statement issued by the college said that an independent investigator had looked into the allegations and found no wrongdoing by the college or its president. "The investigation proved that this complaint has no basis in fact, and I am confident that the results of the lawsuit will be similar," Ringle was quoted as saying in the lawsuit.

A college spokeswoman confirmed that Ringle has a hot tub at his home, but said that it was on a deck and would have been visible to many college officials who have attended social events at his home.


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