Kern probation chief disputes sexual harassment allegations

Kern probation chief disputes sexual harassment allegations
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Kern County's probation chief said an investigation into sexual harassment charges will clear his name. David Kuge is accused by a former department secretary, who claimed she suffered verbal and physical harassment and was forced out of the department.

The secretary, Lisa Phillips, filed a claim with the county last week.

"All of the allegations are false," Kuge told Eyewitness News. "I've done absolutely nothing wrong."

He became chief probation officer in January 2010. The 10-page claim lists complaints starting that February.

Phillips' claim says Kuge, "would constantly tell me I had a nice figure and that I always smelled nice." The secretary said that, and comments about what she could wear, made her feel uncomfortable.

In the claim, the secretary says by March 2010 Kuge, "started making physical contact" with her. Phillips said at times, the chief would rub her shoulders and would give her "long, tight hugs."

She said that in September, he offered to let her have time off after a death in the family.

"As he said this, his right hand slid down the front of my chest touching the top of my right breast," the claim reads.

Then, in December, Phillips claims Kuge asked her to have an affair with him.

"None of that even happened," Kuge said Monday. "It's all false."

The chief said Phillips made similar allegations in October 2011. He said the county investigated and found all the charges "unfounded."

It was in February 2011 that Phillips said she returned from a week of medical leave and was "walked off the job," and put on administrative leave. The claim says she found out in May the leave was due to a complaint that had been filed against her by Kelly McDaniel.

"Throughout the time I knew her, Ms. McDaniel had repeatedly told me that she had a 'special' relationship with chief Kuge," it states.

Kuge told Eyewitness News that was not true, and he "barely knew" McDaniel.

Phillip's claim also says she felt there was no one she could go to with her concerns. "No one in the department was interested in hearing my side of the story," it reads.

Kuge also disputed that. He said the county has a process, and when Phillips first reported her allegations, county counsel was notified and an investigation was started.

But, the former secretary claimed two friends who investigated her allegations were also put on administrative leave.

"The department removed everyone who would support my story," the claim says. The friends were also county employees.

Eyewitness News reached Phillips' family, who said only her attorneys can comment on the claim. The attorneys did not return a reporter's call on Monday.

The claim says the experience has taken a toll on Phillips.

"I was retaliated against, harassed, discriminated against, stressed, hurt and humiliated because, among other reason, I was being sexually harassed by Dave Kuge," it reads. "I rejected him and the department knew it and ruined my career."

Phillips also says she is now constantly experiencing headaches, stomach pains and emotional distress as a result.

Filing a claim is a first step toward filing a lawsuit against the county.

Kuge said he's contacted probation staff, and told them he is staying focused on his job.

"I've made a a promise to maintain my commitment to the department, the staff and the citizens." Kuge said.

He expects the county will investigate the current allegations, and this could take a number of months. Kuge said he was cleared of charges before. "I have complete trust in the process," he said.

Phillips' claim says she also wants help through that process.

"I am hoping that by bringing this claim I am finally able to have a fair hearing and present my story," it reads.