An alleged sexual relationship between a Merced County sheriff's commander and one of his female employees is the basis of a recently filed employment discrimination claim -- possibly signaling a future lawsuit against the department.
The indiscretions happened around 2009-2010, according to forms filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Kathy Mathis, a dispatcher at the time, claims she was denied a promotion after she was coerced into showing one of her breasts at a sheriff's department function.
Mathis also alleges she was retaliated against when she refused to continue a sexual relationship with Cmdr. James Buttrey, who oversees corrections for the department.
Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman, said the department can't comment on the matter since it's a personnel issue.
Besides a promotion that was denied to Mathis because of her behavior, she also claims she was unfairly micromanaged after ending the sexual relationship with Buttrey, her supervisor.
The promotion was denied by Cmdr. B.J. Jones after Mathis showed a breast at a sheriff's department function, according to the EEOC form.
"I was up for promotion as dispatch supervisor and while at Commander Jones' party, Sgt. (Scott) Dover told me that if I wanted his vote that I had to show him my breast," according to an attachment in the form. "I was intoxicated and did so at his direction."
After initially laughing about the incident the next workday, Jones called Mathis into his office and said she wouldn't be promoted because of her behavior and tattoos she had, according to the EEOC form.
Mathis then contacted Buttrey, her direct supervisor, who had guaranteed her a promotion in exchange for sexual favors, according to the EEOC form.
"I was later told by Commander Buttrey that I was passed over for promotion because Commander Jones told the Sheriff what happened at his party," according to an attachment to the EEOC form.
Mathis then claims that Buttrey had her transferred to corrections and since "he was in charge of corrections I would go places as long as I didn't burn him by telling anyone of our sexual relationship."
According to the claim, the requests for sexual favors from Buttrey continued, but the propositions were denied by Mathis because of how she felt about herself and her relationship with her husband, Deputy Johnny Mathis, who had been temporarily terminated from the department because of a domestic violence allegation.
"This was very awkward being my husband had just been reinstated and we were working through my indiscretions," according to the attachment in the EEOC report.
After getting laid off from corrections, Kathy Mathis was placed back in dispatch at a lower seniority, which she claims was retaliation for not going along with Buttrey's propositions.
Her husband, Johnny, was put on administrative leave after being reinstated with the department -- a move that Kathy Mathis says is retaliatory.
Kathy Mathis, who's still working for the sheriff's department as a dispatcher, claims the fallout from the incidents have caused undue stress to her and her husband. Mathis also claims she was micromanaged.
"I went back to dispatch August 1, 2011 and noticed unlike any other dispatcher everything I did or requested was sent to Commander Buttrey," according to the attachment in the EEOC report. "I felt he was watching me being I was the only one this was being done to."
Richard Flores, assistant county counsel, said his office is aware of the complaints, but can't go into detail about the situation for confidentiality reasons.
"The county is investigating the charges in the complaint, so at this point, we can't really divulge anything," he said.
Though the complaint was filed with the EEOC and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the EEOC took jurisdiction over the matter. The agency closed the file and issued a right-to-sue letter, meaning a civil lawsuit could follow.
After several attempts over the past week, Kathy Mathis, Johnny Mathis, Buttrey, Dover and Jones either couldn't be reached for comment or declined to comment to the Sun-Star.
The EEOC report isn't the first controversy involving Johnny and Kathy Mathis. In 2010, Johnny Mathis had been accused of pushing his wife while in uniform and on duty at the sheriff's department. Mathis fought the charge in Merced County Superior Court, and the charge was dismissed after he agreed to attend counseling sessions. Mathis was rehired by the department last year, after a private arbitrator ruled in his favor. His recent administrative leave is for an unrelated issue.
Civil lawsuits involving Johnny Mathis as a defendant against allegations of excessive force have cost the county more than $400,000, according to court records.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.