Officer quits amid lawsuit

Wade McIntyre

SORRENTO – The police officer who earlier this year filed a sexual harassment suit in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge against the town police department and Chief Earl Theriot resigned before the Town Council Tuesday.

In a hurriedly read statement, Officer Tina Burd said she was tendering her resignation with regret, after 1 1/2 years of service, and after being “a witness and a victim of both corruption and abuse,” in the department.

Burd, who has been on leave of absence, said she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by former Capt. Ryan Guidry and also said she was the victim of sexual slurs by Chief Earl Theriot. Both men are named in the district court civil suit.

“Due to the recent invents involving my attempted termination (by Theriot) and the violent attack by (Officer) Terry Albright on a female citizen, I feel unsafe resuming employment with the Sorrento Police Department,” Burd said in Tuesday’s statement.

Burd also said, in the statement, she was “rebuffed by the town council in my attempts to report any offenses.”

Burd and three people accompanying her abruptly left the meeting after she read the statement.

Outside the council chambers, Burd said she resigned because she was scared to go back to work at the department, literally fearing for her life.

“Part of the reason I quit is because I have to work,” she said. “I haven’t been getting worker’s compensation.”

She said her application papers have been turned in for worker’s compensation, and her lawyer is presumably working on the matter, but she has yet to receive a worker’s comp check.

“She never came to me with the allegations,” Theriot said after the council meeting. “Let her prove it in court. We’re ready.”

Theriot said he interviewed all his officers regarding Burd’s claims and found nothing wrong.

Town attorney Greg Lambert and two councilmen, Edwin Pezant and Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair, were absent from the Tuesday meeting.

Burd’s suit alleges Guidry made patently offensive statements of a sexual nature to her, that he propositioned her for sexual favors, made sexually suggestive comments and gestures to her, and subjected her to other forms of sexual harassment, including a sexually hostile working environment in the department.

In the suit, Burd said she advised both Guidry and Theriot that the described actions were unwarranted, unwelcome and otherwise offensive in nature to her, but Guidry continued to commit the actions.

Burd said Wednesday she did not initially report the harassment to the council because Theriot was her immediate supervisor and she reported it to him.

Following an executive session earlier this year, the council rebuffed efforts by Theriot to fire Burd based on unspecified performance issues by taking no action on his request to terminate her.

In an unrelated matter Tuesday, the council reviewed a $32,900 bid to replace sheet metal on the leaking city hall roof.

Chuck Chenevert of Livingston Roofing and Sheet Metal said the work would include heavier 24-gauge roofing metal and a redesign of the roof.

The council deferred action on the bid acceptance, asking Chenevert to revise the estimate based on his inspection of the damage to include a statement saying the roof damage is wind caused.

In other business, the council approved a police department request for three new police cars to be funded by a $40,000 state grant with the difference in price to be put up by the town.

To be replaced are vehicles with 191,000 miles, 141,000 miles, and 155,000 miles, ranging in age from eight to four years old.

The purchase of the new cars will give the town “five very good vehicles,” Theriot said.