Marietta police sergeant files lawsuit alleging sexual harassment by former chief

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A female police sergeant in Marietta has filed a federal lawsuit against the city alleging a long pattern of sexual harassment and gender discrimination by the former police chief.

In her lawsuit, filed last week, Katherine Warden alleges she was routinely mocked and demeaned in front of her co-workers and was denied opportunities for promotion.

For example, Warden alleges that Rodney Hupp, the former police chief, repeatedly said she needed to be in a “bloody” fight or “beat down” so that she would know what it’s like to be a “real cop.”

Hupp also said she did not have the respect of the male officers working under her because she “coddles” them and acts “matronly,” Warden alleges.

The lawsuit describes a locker-room atmosphere at the police department, in which Hupp allegedly used language laced with strong sexual overtones when talking to or about Warden.

The first page of the lawsuit filed by Warden against the city of Marietta
Click the image to read the full lawsuit.

For example, Warden alleges that Hupp often addressed her using a phrase that formed an acronym for a female body part. She alleges he often asked her if she was on her period and repeatedly told employees he wanted to change the department uniform because of how the pants fit her bottom.

Warden alleges that Hupp told her he could not promote her to a higher position because it might give the impression they were sexually intimate.

The lawsuit comes nearly one year after Warden filed a complaint with the city, which led to an investigation and prompted Hupp to resign in July.

The investigation was conducted by Jessica Philemond, a Columbus attorney who represents the city in labor issues and has expertise in sexual harassment claims.

In her report, Philemond wrote that Warden told her she and Hupp had at one point been close but that her feelings about the relationship changed after he took over as police chief.

Philemond wrote that Hupp told her he did not believe his interactions with Warden were harassing because of the nature of their friendship and because she engaged in similarly vulgar office banter.

Philemond concluded that Hupp engaged in misconduct that violated the department’s harassment policy but that his behavior was not serious enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment.

Warden’s lawsuit is arguing just the opposite. “I can’t imagine any jury or judge finding that this harassment was not severe or pervasive,” said Michael Fradin, the attorney representing Warden.

Hupp, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.

After Hupp resigned, the city appointed Capt. Aaron Nedeff to serve as interim police chief. He then became the permanent chief a month later.

In her lawsuit, Warden says that after Hupp resigned, the city was obligated to give her and other department employees an opportunity to take a promotional exam to compete to become the next police chief.

This did not happen, which Warden alleges was retaliation against her for filing her complaint. Warden and other Police Department officers have filed a grievance with the city over its decision, according to the lawsuit.

Steve Wetz, the director of public safety and service for Marietta, said Tuesday morning that he was not aware of the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

Aaron Glasgow, the lead attorney representing Marietta in the case, said the lawsuit had not yet been served on the city, which may explain why city officials were not aware of it. Plaintiffs are required to provide defendants with a copy of a lawsuit, a legal process known as service.

Glasgow said that in this case he had already talked to Fradin and agreed that he was likely going to waive the service requirement.

Warden is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged violations of federal and state law.