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The La Crosse County Solid Waste Department is under new leadership while the county faces a federal lawsuit prompted by allegations of gender-based discrimination against Hank Koch, who recently retired from his position as the department’s director.

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Hank Koch

Koch

A former scale operator at the landfill filed a lawsuit against the county under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming she had been verbally abused by Koch, faced retaliation after complaining about it and effectively lost her job because of Koch’s actions.

According to court documents, the woman first complained to the county’s Human Resources Department in January 2014 that Koch verbally abused fellow female subordinates in the solid waste department. She quit her job in late June 2014 and filed a written complaint with the county in August 2014, including herself as a victim of the abuse and alleging that she was retaliated against because of her previous complaint.

Her lawsuit further claims that after she quit, she learned that Koch would no longer have supervisory authority over her former position. She applied for her old job, but another applicant with no scale experience was hired.

In October 2014, the woman filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which investigated and in August 2016 determined that there was “reasonable cause to believe” that the woman’s civil rights under Title VII were violated.

In March, the U.S. Justice Department notified the woman that it wouldn’t pursue legal action against the county in the matter, and the woman filed her lawsuit against the county in June, seeking reinstatement in her former job, back pay and other compensatory damages. A conference to discuss a possible settlement of the case is scheduled for Wednesday.

The attorney representing the county’s insurance provider filed court documents seeking dismissal of the lawsuit and denying there was a civil rights violation. The documents also allege that the county is entitled to immunity on some allegations, that the plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies, that any damages were not due to county policy or practice and that the county acted in good faith with no intent to retaliate or do harm.

The La Crosse County Board’s meeting last month ended with a closed-session discussion of the complaint and the staffing of the solid waste department.

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Steve O'Malley mug

O’Malley

County Administrator Steve O’Malley said Tuesday that Jadd Stillwill, the operations manager, will take on the role of deputy director, filling in for Koch while continuing his operations management. Randy Nedrelo, who has been deputy director, was reassigned to work in the household hazardous materials operation.

“He’s in the best position to take over,” O’Malley said of Stillwell, who was hired in 2007. “We’re going to take some time to evaluate the department. For now, this was enough change.”

Koch was hired as solid waste director in April 2009. His cell phone number was no longer in service and he could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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La Crosse Tribune entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

(7) comments

awol2009

Maybe O'Malley needs to go, too, with the Koch d*ckhead.

Raven

About time Koch is gone. He should have been gone many years ago for his treatment of people, and his fiscal irresponsibility. This woman should be lauded by county taxpayers, as she has now saved the county over a quarter million dollars a year in salary and benefits alone. And, this is not an isolated case. There have been so many complaints about Koch, it boggles the mind how long it took to get rid of him. County administration and HR are guilty of letting this abuse happen over and over. I hope the victim in this case gets a whopping settlement, and all those involved in letting this happen are severely punished!

canman

Bend over taxpayers, due to the county personnel department being a joke and not firing these people, now taxpayers will pay their pensions and a settlement to the abused.

kingman10

what the trib doesn't say in this article is Mr. Nedrelo who was reassigned to an entry level position, also took a huge pay cut. He had nothing to do with Koch's handling of the situation but was reprimanded anyway because he was deputy director under Koch. Verbal abuse goes on all the time at the county level in many departments. In this case there is a law suit so the country has to cover its arse. If you want to see verbal abuse, just go to the highway dept. and ask the employees their about their department head. Koch is a light weight compared to him.

dontknowjack

Saw something like this coming since the famous tears on the table Harter meeting. This guy proved back then what kind of person he was except people chose to look the other way and speculate on the then mayor instead. I hope this woman gets what she deserves and then some.

Raven

I do so agree Jack....and this is not over yet. More lawsuits are coming. How O'malley and HR let this go on is mind boggling. Time for us taxpayers to stand up and demand action so this abuse does not continue.

The Mouse of Death

[angry]It would behoove women to stop complaining about fake news and follow the example of President Donald J. Trump who knows how to handle women such as Megyn Kelly and Miss Universe and Rosie and Lyin' Ted and Mitt Romney.

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