by Andrea Tudhope, Kansas News Service
The general services director of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, has resigned after a jury on Tuesday found him guilty of misdemeanor battery against a female employee.
Dennis “Tib” Laughlin was director of general services and worked for the UG for 21 years. According to the UG, he submitted his resignation in writing after the verdict was handed down Tuesday afternoon.
Had he not resigned, the UG told KCUR that Laughlin would have been fired.
Last May, now former Unified Government employee Maddie Waldeck said she was having a “light-hearted” conversation with colleagues after work when Laughlin, her boss at the time, grabbed her by the shirt and pushed her against a wall.
“At the time, it struck me as funny,” Laughlin testified.
Eyewitness Theresa Duke, who was subpoenaed to testify, told the court she did not find it funny.
“Honestly, I was shocked,” Duke said.
In a statement Tuesday, the UG said it had investigated the incident thoroughly and came to a different conclusion than the jury.
UG Public Relations Director Mike Taylor told KCUR that UG officials were surprised by the guilty verdict.
“We were a bit disappointed, but we knew that was certainly a possibility,” Taylor said. “[Tib Laughlin] was well-liked in the organization, so I think there’s some surprise and disappointment that an incident like this happened, and that it came to the end that it did.”
Waldeck, who worked for the UG for five years, told KCUR that the two years she worked with Laughlin were the most “stressful and heartbreaking” of her professional life.
She documented several incidents over those two years that she felt were inappropriate and made her uncomfortable, including comments Laughlin made about his sexual relationships or about how Waldeck looked.
Two other employees, who spoke to KCUR on the condition of anonymity, backed up Waldeck.
One said Laughlin’s “inapproprate” behavior was “not something hidden.” The other said she was warned early in her career “not to spend any time alone with him.”
Waldeck said she tried to go through the proper channels inside the Unified Government but they failed her.
After she left the UG for another job following the battery incident, Waldeck saw Laughlin on TV talking about the project they worked on together at work.
“You know that he put his hands on me, you know that he has pending battery charges against him, you know all of that and you put him on camera,” Waldeck said. “Horrible, it was horrible.”
Taylor said the UG has mandatory training for sexual harassment and violence in the workplace.
“It teaches employees what’s appropriate and what’s not. And clearly I think our view was that you don’t put your hands on an employee,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a good foundation in place to, as best we can, make sure things like this don’t happen.”
Laughlin faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor conviction. His sentencing has been set for the end of August.
Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.