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.
He testified she once said in a van full of employees that she couldn't get her seat belt on because her breasts were so big. Ballard denied making such a statement.
Trant testified: “I said, ‘I'll tell you what: If you go to Victoria's Secret and spend it there and model what you buy, then you can do it.' I said, ‘Because if they are too big for the seat belt, they must really be something.'”
Trant wrote the personal check to pay the bills of a woman waiting for the completion of an autopsy report or death certificate so she could get life insurance. He said he expected the woman would pay him back but her problem was resolved before the check was sent.
The sexual harassment accusation against Trant is ironic because he had been hired in 2009 to clean up the agency. The medical examiner's office was being rocked in 2009 by sexual misconduct accusations involving a former chief investigator.
Trant had sought to implement a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment.
Another female employee claimed in an affidavit in the lawsuit that Trant talked about having sexual dreams involving his sister-in-law. The employee stated Trant “would openly discuss an infatuation he possessed with his sister-in-law.”
Trant told The Oklahoman he discussed with the employee having bizarre dreams when he took the sleep medication Ambien. He denied describing them as sex dreams. “I didn't say anything about what the dreams were,” Trant said.
Trant claims in his lawsuit he was wrongly fired after he tried to tell the board about evidence of employee misconduct and about wrongdoing by an outside investigator.
He also claims he was fired because he told the board he was going to hire an attorney.
“I had evidence of crimes and, at the suspension meeting, the board … thought I was just paranoid. They weren't going to do anything about it,” he said Friday.
He also claims the board violated the Open Meeting Act when it voted to fire him.
Trant, who still lives in Oklahoma, said Friday the board drummed up lies about him to try to justify its actions.
“It just irks me,” Trant said. “They finally realized they didn't have anything to fire me for and they started coming up with this.”
Ballard told The Oklahoman last week, “I'll just be glad when it's all over.”