Local public official accused in office harassment - WSMV Channel 4

Local public official accused in office harassment

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Five women are accusing a local county official of everything from sexual harassment to cheating on a test to giving tax breaks to family members.

Bill Boner, not the former Nashville mayor with the same name, is the Rutherford County property assessor.

Recently, some of Boner's former employees filed a federal harassment complaint against him. But those employees, and several others, say it goes far beyond that.

The five women who have come forward to talk about Boner combined for a grand total of 70 years experience in that office.

Their former boss has been there for three years.

"He thought I was too big. He said he didn't want anyone up there over a size 12," Pam Smith said.

Smith spent 23 years at the office and was the face of customer service.

"I was moved back as far as he could get me," she said. "He didn't want me to be seen by the public because of my size. It hurt my feelings. I had been there for so long and knew everybody there."

And so Pam Smith decided to call it quits.

"I retired. It was either that or a nervous breakdown," she said. "It was time to get out of there."

Bill Boner has been told by the county attorney not to answer the Channel 4 I-Team's questions. But instead, he decided to talk quite a bit, denying that he ever said anything about plus-size women.

"Never have I done that. I haven't even heard that part of it yet," Boner said. "I sent two or three things over to HR ever since it began."

And, as Boner suggests, this is just the beginning of the allegations in his office.

Robbie, who wanted her face and last name concealed to avoid any possible embarrassment for her new employer, says when Boner wanted to obtain his certified public administrator certificate - a testing achievement that brings up to a $1,500 bonus - Boner made her take the major online tests for him.

"He would call me into his office. He would tell me to log on as him on the website. I didn't have a choice," Robbie said. "He did it for months. We went into his office, and I took his tests for him. And he bragged about his certification he received faster than any assessor in history."

In fact, Bill Boner showed the Channel 4 I-Team his public administrator certificate and admitted Robbie did come into his office and answered some of the online questions. He even showed a test with all the answers redacted out, but he says it was all just a practice test.

"No, sir. That's strictly a lie. All she did was have a practice test, took it off the internet. There is no way to take that test except from the state down in Nashville," Boner said.

But a call to the office that certifies public administrators reveals there is no practice test and that the online test is a real test. The tests must be passed online before a final test is taken in person. And, in fact, five of the six tests for certification can be taken online.

"He got a very good raise for that something he didn't earn," Robbie said. "It was something I did."

So why did she do it if she knew it was wrong?

"I'm a single mother," Robbie said. "I needed my job very much to take care of my son."

But Robbie says it wasn't enough. Less than a week after Boner obtained that certification, she says she was fired and accused of causing a disruption.

"You know, when you fire someone they have to come up with something. It's not true," Boner said.

Keep in mind, none of the fired women - many of whom with decades on the job - was ever disciplined or officially written up until Bill Boner took office.

The investigation by Tennessee's Employment Security Division found that Robbie had no reprimands, written or verbal, before being fired after 23 years of service. The investigation also revealed that Boner made unsubstantiated allegations and did not provide evidence of misconduct.

Other former employees said Boner used his power to take care of family members.

"That's a big lie," Boner said.

But land in Smyrna was appraised at $99,000 before Bill Boner personally intervened and adjusted the new assessment by cutting almost in half.

The property belongs to Boner's cousin.

"Oh, he ain't no special friend. I've seen him once or twice in the past 25 years. It just needed a little adjustment," Boner said.

Bill Boner adds that he actually raised taxes on his own brother and has taken 627 properties off Greenbelt status. "Greenbelt" properties are those designated to be dedicated to farm, forestry or open space uses.

But while taking all of those properties off Greenbelt status, Boner placed his own daughter on Greenbelt status after giving her enough of his own personal property so she would qualify.

"I just wanted my grandkids near," Boner said.

And then there are the charges of sexual harassment, which is the basis of the active Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against him.

"You know, when you fire someone, they've got to come up with something," Boner said. "All they had to do is do what I told them to do. If they refuse to do it, what can you do?"

Those sexual harassment allegations are so involved they are a whole other story. The Channel 4 I-Team report continues Tuesday on Channel 4 News at 6 p.m.

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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