Attorney: It could be years before a jury hears Johns Creek sexual harassment case

An attorney for a Johns Creek employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and former police chief Chris Byers accusing the chief of using his position to sexually harass her and other female employees.
An attorney for a Johns Creek employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and former police chief Chris Byers accusing the chief of using his position to sexually harass her and other female employees.

The former police chief of Johns Creek was stunned by a federal lawsuit filed against him and the city in October after an investigation into the chief’s conduct, his attorney said.

The plaintiff’s attorney says it could be years before the case makes it to a jury.

Before his resignation, former police chief Chris Byers had been under investigation for nearly two months for an incident in which he made a sexually explicit remark to another police department employee. His attorney, Darryl Cohen, said Byers had moved on since resigning as Johns Creek police chief in August and has been doing work as a private investigator and polygraph screener.

“He’s moving on and looking forward to dealing with (the lawsuit) because it’s bogus,” Cohen said. “It’s nothing but inaccuracies and lies.”

At the time of his resignation, Byers received $325,000 in a settlement agreement with Johns Creek. An outside law firm hired by the city in June to investigate Byers' behavior concluded that he violated sexual harassment and conduct policies when he made statements to a female employee. A report from the investigation said Byers admitted that he made sexual comments to the employee, and added that they regularly joked in that way.

The female employee is now the plaintiff in the federal lawsuit filed Oct. 23 against Byers and Johns Creek, which accuses the former chief of using his position to sexually harass her and other female employees.

The plaintiff has worked in Johns Creek police administration since 2008, Eleanor Attwood, her attorney said.

“She was just fed up,” Attwood said, regarding her client’s reason for the lawsuit. “There’s just a discourse or dialogue that happens in those environments too often … and on some level you have to shrug it off. I think she wants women behind her and beside her not to have to deal with it.”

Attwood said lawsuits such as her plaintiff’s have a high legal standard of proof that is not easy to meet and it could be four or five years before the case reaches a jury.

Johns Creek officials have said they can’t comment on an active lawsuit. Last week Mayor Mike Bodker praised the city’s police department during a phone call with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, adding that its problems over the years are similar to other departments.

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