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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ind. Decisions - "Ex-trustee absolved in Steuben sex assault"

The Supreme Court's opinion in Debra A. Barnett v. Camille Clark, Trustee of Pleasant Township, decided last Friday (see ILB entry here), is the subject today of a story by Niki Kelly in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some quotes:

Former Pleasant Township Trustee Camelia Clark cannot be held legally responsible for the sexual battery committed by one of her employees – and husband – the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

The justices issued a decision late Friday, about a month after hearing arguments that upheld the original finding of the trial court, which dismissed the case in favor of the trustee.

Donald Clark pleaded guilty in 2005 to sexual battery and battery involving two women who came to the trustee’s office seeking temporary financial assistance. At the time, he was the deputy trustee and his wife, Camelia Clark, was trustee.

The former chairman of the Republican Party in Steuben County and the 4th District received a two-year prison sentence and has since been released. * * *

At his sentencing, police testified they had investigated seven cases involving Donald Clark and female township residents going back to 1979.

But the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of his wife.

The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in December 2007, finding that an employer can be liable for the criminal acts of an employee if the employee’s actions were at least for a time authorized.

The Supreme Court, though, ruled unanimously that the actions of the deputy trustee were not sufficiently associated with his employment duties to fall within the scope of employment.

Attorneys for Barnett argued the case fell within a narrow exception, but the justices disagreed.

“His alleged acts of confining, sexually touching, and raping the plaintiff were not an extension of authorized physical contact. Such acts were not incidental to nor sufficiently associated with the deputy trustee’s authorized duties,” the decision said. “They did not further his employer’s business. And they were not motivated to any extent by his employer’s interests.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 1, 2008 08:16 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions