Lawsuit over Oklahoma medical examiner firing reveals harassment claim

A lawsuit over the 2010 firing of Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner Collie Trant reveals he had been accused of sexual harassment. Dr. Trant claims he was only joking. His lawsuit is still pending.
by Nolan Clay Published: January 14, 2013
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A still-pending lawsuit over the 2010 firing of Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner Collie M. Trant reveals he had been accused of sexual harassment.

Dr. Trant, 64, said he was joking when he made a comment about a married employee's breasts and suggested she buy something from Victoria's Secret and model it.

“She laughed and I laughed,” he testified in a 2012 deposition.

The board that oversees the medical examiner's office fired Trant on Feb. 5, 2010, without public explanation.

The Board of Medicolegal Investigations had put Trant on paid administrative leave a few days earlier “pending investigation into concerns.”

He lasted less than nine months in the position that then paid $235,000 a year.

Trant quickly sued over his firing. His case has bounced back and forth between Oklahoma County District Court, Oklahoma City federal court and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal judge in December dismissed most of Trant's claims. His attorney, Carl Hughes, plans to appeal.

Legal filings in the case have revealed for the first time the reasons board members gave for first suspending Trant and then firing him.

Board members put Trant on paid leave after they learned of comments he made to Cherokee Ballard, then the agency's legislative liaison and public information officer, according to the filings. She no longer works for the agency.

Board members fired Trant primarily on insubordination grounds after deciding he violated a directive not to contact employees while on suspension, according to the filings.

Ballard, 49, described the comments to her in a deposition in the case. She testified that Trant in late January 2010 wanted to personally pay a woman's electric or gas bill and left “a check on my desk for $1,000 made out to me.”

She testified she told Trant on the phone that she did not think paying the woman's bill was a good idea.

“I jokingly said, ‘I'm going to take your money and go to the mall,' ” she testified.

She said he told her to make sure to go to Victoria's Secret and buy some things that wouldn't constrict her breasts. She recalled the doctor used a slang word to describe her anatomy.

“I think he laughed and I said, ‘OK,' and got off the phone,” she testified.

Victoria's Secret is a well-known company that sells lingerie and other women's clothing in malls nationwide.

Trant testified in his deposition that he was “joking back” with Ballard when she joked she was going to take his check to the mall.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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