Arnold agrees to $450,000 settlement in suit filed by fired officer

2013-05-24T00:15:00Z 2014-10-24T14:26:12Z Arnold agrees to $450,000 settlement in suit filed by fired officerBy Leah Thorsen lthorsen@post-dispatch.com 636-937-6249 stltoday.com

ARNOLD • The city has agreed to a $450,000 settlement to end a lawsuit filed by a police officer who alleged she was sexually harassed and wrongly fired.

The officer, Alicia Ott, got $266,000, according to the settlement released Thursday. The law firm that represented her, Dobson, Goldberg, Berns and Rich, received $184,000.

Ott was hired in 1999 as an Arnold patrol officer. She became a detective in 2009, which is when she said Owen Conarow, another officer who is the department’s gun instructor, began sexually harassing her, the suit says.

Comments made by Conarow included “taking care” of her husband to collect insurance money and saying he would approve her to carry a certain gun only if she met him when off duty, the suit claimed. Ott said she rejected his advances and also said she caught him standing in the dark outside her office when she was working alone, which frightened her.

Conarow could not be reached for comment.

According to the suit, Ott filed complaints about Conarow to no avail. Police officials later launched an investigation against her for violating orders not to discuss anything about Conarow.

When she returned to work after a one-month medical leave for stress and anxiety in November 2010, she was demoted to probationary patrol officer because of that investigation, the suit says. About a month later, she filed a complaint requesting that her superiors investigate false rumors circulated about her.

While on another medical leave — this time for stress-induced migraines — on Jan. 7, 2011, she said she got a memo at 6:45 p.m. ordering her to provide more information about the false rumors complaint with a deadline of 10 that night. Ott, who had two young children, did not meet the deadline.

She was suspended the next day for not obeying the order and not cooperating with the investigation and was fired later that month. She filed suit against the city, Conarow and Police Chief Robert Shockey on Oct. 31, 2011.

Neither Ott nor her attorney, Jerome Dobson, could be reached.

Conarow is still an Arnold officer, said city attorney Bob Sweeney. He said the settlement would be paid through the city’s policy with the Missouri Intergovernmental Risk Management Association, a self-insurance pool established and owned by municipalities. The Arnold City Council voted unanimously April 18 to accept the settlement, which was finalized Tuesday.

In February, the city agreed to pay Susie Boone, the parks director, a $55,000 settlement stemming from a complaint she filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights last year against Alderman Ken Moss, who represents Ward 4.

Boone accused him of “repeatedly accusing her of wrongdoing, incompetence and undercutting her authority” by making false statements about her and targeting her because she is a woman after Moss’ sister was fired in 2010 from Boone’s department. Moss has denied those claims.

Leah Thorsen covers Jefferson and south St. Louis counties. Follow her on Twitter.

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