Bernalillo Co. sheriff accused of harassment

Posted at: 10/11/2012 4:21 PM
Updated at: 10/11/2012 5:21 PM
By: Danielle Todesco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Photo: Dan Houston
Photo: Dan Houston

Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston is facing some serious accusations. Former spokesperson and legal council for the department, Jennifer Vega-Brown, has filed a lawsuit claiming the sheriff sexually harassed and discriminated against women there.

The sheriff's lawyer held a press conference Thursday, not to address the lawsuit filed by Vega-Brown but rather to address what they called incorrect statements in an Albuquerque Journal article published Thursday morning.

Houston was not present at the press conference. It was his attorney, Jonlyn Martinez, speaking on his behalf.

"We've called this press conference to clarify some of the mis-statements in the Journal article that was published today," Martinez said.

The article quoted a Wednesday interview with Houston. It said Houston admitted to calling a female employee a "fat slob" - one of the accusations referenced in the lawsuit.

The Journal report says the sheriff told their reporter it was a "private statement," and that he admitted it was inappropriate.

"The sheriff never told any employee that they were an overweight slob or a fat slob," Martinez said. "In addition, the sheriff never told Jennifer Vega-Brown that she was a whore."

That is another allegation made in the lawsuit filed by Vega-Brown.

Furthermore, Vega-Brown alleges Houston made inappropriate comments on several occassions, including after learning a female employee at the department had breast cancer she alleges Houston said, "I don't know how she can have breast cancer. Her breasts are so small."

But Martinez says otherwise.  

"The Sheriff has never discriminated against any of his employees nor has he made inappropriate comments about anyone concerning cancer or their body," Martinez said.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 called the Albuquerque Journal to see if they stand by their article. Editors told us the interview with the sheriff on Wednesday was taped, and the tape supports the article.

Vega Suit