'Intimidating and strange': Former secretary accuses Madison County sheriff of harassment

News-DemocratJune 26, 2013 

— A former secretary for Madison County Sheriff Bob Hertz filed a complaint alleging he harassed her and wanted to "have a relationship with me, possibly romantic," according to the complaint filed with the county.

A copy of the complaint and email exchanges between Hertz and Jaimie Linton, 37, of Bethalto, were released after a Freedom of Information request was filed by the Belleville News-Democrat. The county initially declined the request, but agreed to release the documents after an appeal to the Attorney General's Public Access Counselor.

Hertz, 63, declined to comment. He referred questions to Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

No criminal charges have been filed. Linton filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that was filed with the county. The county investigated the complaint and found it could have merit.

In the complaint, Linton alleged that Hertz:

* Made comments referring to her "secret life" and "sinister side."

* Repeatedly threatened her job and questioned her morals and character.

* Followed her during her lunch hour.

* Asked a county information systems person to pull all Linton's telephone and computer records, then told the computer person not to discuss it with anyone because it was a criminal matter.

* Emailed Linton with non-work-related issues when they were not in the office and became angry with Linton when she didn't respond quickly enough.

* Threatened to have a private investigator follow her.

Linton wrote in the complaint that other sheriff's department employees wouldn't call her on Linton's department issued phone or have her in their offices because Hertz, who was elected sheriff in 2002, would become jealous.

"I know, I think how you are and I hope you are with me and how I want things to move forward," Hertz wrote to Linton on Sept. 17, 2012 at 7:33 p.m. "Are you there? I can only hope. Keep me posted, please. I will be there for you ... I need YOU to be there for ME. "

"I am here Sheriff ... Be safe," Linton responded an hour later.

Linton alleged that after she told Hertz that he was creating a "hostile work environment," his actions continued.

Linton no longer works for the sheriff's department. She was transferred to the Madison County Probation and Court Services.

In a memo written by county Administrator Joseph Parente, he stated that had Linton remained at the sheriff's department, he would have recommended that Hertz no longer supervise her. He also stated that any further behavior or retaliatory action from Hertz would be "addressed."

"The investigation resulted in a conclusion that the alleged conduct could have happened and that there was evidence that corroborated the allegations," according to a memo to Linton from Parente.

In the complaint, Linton called her interactions with Hertz "intimidating and strange," then added that Hertz never made any type of physical advance toward her.

In May 2012, Linton's title was changed from administrative assistant to business manager of administrative affairs. Her job status was then protected by the county's Merit Commission.

In 2012, Linton earned $63,128. In 2011, Linton earned $55,033. She was the highest paid civilian administrative employee in the department.

Linton alleged Hertz told her that his push to do that was to protect her from his "knee-jerk reactions," according to her complaint.

One of Linton's duties was to write the sheriff's department's policy on sexual harassment, according to one of the emails between Hertz and Linton.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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