BELLE FOURCHE - A former Belle Fourche police secretary has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging she was fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment and potential asbestos dangers in the police headquarters.
Nicole Shiffrar was fired by the city about a year ago. The Belle Fourche City Council denied her appeal. She took her case to the South Dakota Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC ruled that Shiffrar could file a lawsuit in the matter. The suit was filed in the United States District Court western South Dakota division June 25, and defendants have 21 days to respond after being served.
Shiffrar's lawsuit claims her firing was retaliation for her complaint of sexual harassment by former police officer Justin Shellhammer and a later complaint about improper asbestos removal from the police headquarters building by a city employee and former Mayor Dave Schneider.
Shiffrar's suit claims that Shellhammer exposed himself to her in public, harassed her and then threatened her job. It alleges Shellhammer and former Police Chief Tom Maunders conspired "to frighten plaintiff and put her in imminent fear."
Belle Fourche Mayor Larry Rohlf said Tuesday afternoon that he had not received any notice of the lawsuit, but was aware one was likely.
"I did know it was coming some time," he said.
The eight-count lawsuit seeks financial damages from the city; Schneider, who was mayor at the time of the firing; former Chief Maunders; and former police officer Justin Shellhammer.
Shiffrar's 15-page complaint requests punitive damages as well as payment for loss of income, benefits, career development, humiliation, medical expenses, embarrassment, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.
No specific amount was requested.
Maunders was fired last December by the city council the same day that Schneider fired the number two man on the department, Erik Jorgensen.
Jorgensen's wife, Betty Jo Jorgensen, remains the executive assistant to the mayor and council.
Erik Jorgensen and two former city building maintenance department supervisors also have lawsuits pending against the city claiming wrongful termination.
After the closed-door session that brought the Maunders dismissal, the city council's police committee chairman, Henry Nore, resigned from the council.
Shellhammer was fired late this spring with no reason given by the council. His wife, Tracy, had pled guilty to taking money from the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce and is serving a prison sentence.