BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – Buncombe County will pay nearly $700,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former detention officer who was sexually harassed and assaulted by another former employee.
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office announced the settlement Tuesday with former detention officer Cynthia Heaton.
In the lawsuit filed in 2020, Heaton alleged that the sheriff’s office under Sheriff Van Duncan was negligent in supervising and retaining former employee Charles Wilhelm, according to the sheriff’s office.
Wilhelm pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor assault on a female in December 2019.
“On behalf of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, I apologize to Ms. Heaton for the harm she suffered,” said Sheriff Quentin Miller in a statement. “Sexual assault and sexual harassment are never acceptable. If any employee of the Sheriff’s Office has been subject to sexual assault or sexual harassment, I encourage them to report the matter to our Office of Professional Standards and/or Human Resources.”
“What happened to Ms. Heaton was inexcusable and this settlement represents the consequences for acts of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace,” Buncombe County Attorney Curt Euler said in a statement.
The $695,000 settlement was reached through voluntary mediation, the sheriff’s office said.