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Sexual harassment case involving Scott AFB employee moves to federal court

Senior military enlisted leaders talk sexual assault prevention

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bryan Tuman discuss the importance of sexual assault prevention throughout the military.
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Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bryan Tuman discuss the importance of sexual assault prevention throughout the military.

A sexual harassment case accusing the manager of Scott Air Force Base’s golf course and bowling alley of misconduct has moved to federal court, further complicating the case.

James McCormick has denied any wrongdoing after a former employee, Corinne Hamilton, accused him of sexual harassment.

As a federal employee, McCormick’s attorneys argue Hamilton must sue the United States government, not McCormick himself. The federal court for the Southern District of Illinois approved the change from state court, according to court documents.

“They claim that if you sue a military member it’s one, you have to sue the U.S. can’t sue individual member and two, by suing the U.S. you have to go to federal court,” said Hamilton’s attorney, Edwardsville-based Brian Wendler.

Hamilton’s attorney originally filed in St. Clair County courts.

Wendler declined to comment further on the case.

Seeking money for damages from the federal government is more complicated than seeking compensation from an individual. A legal protection called “sovereign immunity” in the U.S. prevents the federal government from being sued without its consent.

Another law, the Federal Tort Claims Act, determines what the government can and can’t be sued for, according to a motion to dismiss filed by McCormick’s attorneys.

McCormick’s attorneys argued Hamilton cannot sue the U.S. for the punitive damages she seeks under the tort claims act, and therefore requested a judge dismiss the case.

A conference call between the attorneys and Magistrate Judge Reona Daly was scheduled for Nov. 20, according to court documents. Those involved were expected to discuss discovery procedures, possible settlement, or another alternative to resolving the dispute, among other issues.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Garrison and U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft were representing McCormick in the case.

Garrison, lead counsel in the case, could not be immediately reached for comment.

McCormick is a Professional Golfers’ Association expert and manager of the Cardinal Creek Golf Course and Stars and Strikes Bowling Center at the base, where he started working in 2015, according to the base’s website.

Hamilton, who worked for McCormick beginning in 2016, claims in the lawsuit he made sexual advances and lewd comments, reduced her working hours, made false statements about her and released confidential information from her personnel file. McCormick denied all of the claims in an October interview with the Belleville News-Democrat.

The Air Force investigated the case and “found that the allegations were not substantiated,” according to Karen Petitt, a spokeswoman for the base.

McCormick remains in his position at the base, according to Petitt. Hamilton no longer works at the base.

Hamilton’s case follows multiple sexual misconduct cases at Scott Air Force Base, including an investigation into ousted Col. John Howard and a forced retirement for retired Maj. Gen. Arthur Lichte, who Air Force officials determined had coerced a subordinate officer to have sex with him.

Reporter Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis