Accuser: Dallas Co. wanted harassment claim against health director dismissed

Woman reveals details about alleged sex abuse

The woman who accused ex-Dallas County health director Zach Thompson of sexual harassment and a series of threats said the county’s human resources department asked her to dismiss her claim.

The employee, who chose to remain anonymous, released a tell-all statement Friday through her attorneys.

She accuses Thompson, who served as head of the health department since 2004, of a “pattern of coerced sexual abuse, harassment, and intimidation” from 2013-2015 that included threats of her losing her job if she refused his advances.

She also alleges a “series of retaliatory actions” after the sexual encounters stopped. The woman claims Thompson filed six unwarranted grievances about her job performance.

The woman filed a grievance of her own detailing sexual assault by Thompson on Dec. 5, 2017, which she said was “callously and ineptly mishandled.” The woman’s attorney sent a letter -- including DNA evidence -- to the county demanding she no longer be required to report to Thompson, WFAA learned.

However, Interim HR Director Urmit Graham is accused of asking the alleged victim to “hold out” until Thompson’s retirement, which had been scheduled for Jan. 30.

Finally, on Dec. 18, the woman said the county’s HR department told her she needed to dismiss her harassment claims against Thompson.

“Only after I obtained legal counsel did Dallas County enact its first step toward remedy with the termination of Mr. Thompson in January,” the statement reads.

News of Thompson’s firing went public on Jan. 5, one month after the initial grievance was filed. The health department wrote on Twitter that Thompson was “no longer with DCHHS” as of Dec. 29.

Anthony Lyons, an attorney representing Thompson, said on Jan. 5 that he found out Thompson had been fired from the media. He said no one from the county contacted Thompson about the allegations.

Lyons spoke to WFAA in response to the employee's statement, denying any allegation of misconduct:

Mr. Thompson was an employee with Dallas County for almost 20 years. He had an impeccable reputation, he led Dallas County through some of the most serious health threats in the county’s history. Mr. Thompson has always been regarded as one of the best employees in the county’s history. Mr. Thompson denies any allegation of misconduct as an employee with the County of Dallas.

WFAA also spoke with Graham Friday evening, but he chose not to comment. 

Jennifer Spencer is representing the employee in this case. She said that Thompson approached her client in 2013 at a conference out of town. 

"He came to her hotel room, and while he was there, he made physical sexual advances at her," Spencer said. "She said no, and asked him to leave." 

But Spencer said Thompson continued to harass her client at the Dallas County Health and Human Services building. She said the instances were numerous. 

"He would come down to her office after hours, or he would summon her to his office when both of them were working late," she said. "Using his position of power, he would coerce her to perform sex acts at the county building." 

In 2015, Spencer said the abuse stopped when her client started avoiding Thompson intentionally.

Spencer said she's asked the county to dismiss the grievances against her client, and also wants better training for the HR department so sexual assault allegations can be handled more appropriately. 

She said her client is also asking for monetary damages, and that legal action will be taken if a settlement isn't reached. 

Thompson was hired by the county health department in 1996 as an HIV program manager. He was promoted to deputy director later that year. He served in that position until 2004 when he was promoted to director of the department.

Thompson made national news for being at the helm of the Dallas health department during the West Nile outbreak in 2012 and when the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States was brought here in 2014.

Statement from employee who alleges sexual harassment against Dallas County health director Zachary Thompso... by wfaachannel8 on Scribd

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