Legal battle continues among Boone County officials


Boone County councilman Aaron Williams has filed a counterclaim in a suit filed by a Boone County employee who accused him of sexual harrassment, in which court documents state he “denies that any ‘events’ of sexual harassment occurred.” Williams also has filed a separate suit against Boone County Commissioner Tom Santelli, who he claims conspired to “destroy Williams’ reputation.”

Megan Smith, human resources director for Boone County, filed a formal complaint to Boone County against Williams on Sept. 22, 2021, claiming that Williams subjected her to sexually harassing behavior. She filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Jan. 6, 2022, claiming that she was subjected to retaliation following her complaint.

Williams, Smith and Santelli declined comment when reached by Current, citing the ongoing litigation.

A federal lawsuit was filed by Smith on July 27, 2022, detailing two counts against Boone County, her employer and one against Williams.

The accusation of sexual harassment against Smith’s employer, Boone County, alleges Williams sexually harassed Smith, and “Boone County failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action” following Smith’s report of the alleged incident, according to court documents.

In Smith’s filing of the Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, she detailed various alleged incidents of sexual harassment that she said Williams instigated from April 2021 through Sept. 10, 2021.

The accusations against Williams include instances of comments, conversations and interactions that Smith said were “inappropriate and uncomfortable,” according to court documents.

Smith alleges Williams made calls to her work cellphone twice a week between June and mid-August 2021, and made comments such as asking “intrusively personal details about her marriage,” asking Smith in front of another co-worker whether she had “a second boyfriend,” and brushing his arm against hers Sept. 10, 2021, at an outdoor 9/11 memorial service, then asking “if she needed a hug,” among other allegations.

The count of retaliation, also against Boone County, alleges “Williams removed Smith’s responsibilities on the Compensation Committee” following her complaint to the county Sept. 22, 2021, and that the county dissolved the committee instead of removing Williams, according to court documents.

The third count of intentional infliction of emotional distress filed against Williams alleges Williams intentionally engaged in conduct that caused Smith to suffer “emotional distress, pain, suffering and mental anguish,” according to the lawsuit.

Williams filed a response and counterclaim to Smith’s suit on Aug. 30, 2022, which stated that the “slanderous statements are unequivocally and undoubtedly 100% false,” according to court documents.

The first count in the counterclaim alleges defamation per se, claiming Smith conspired with Santelli to “spread the falsities and lies about the false sexual harassment claim” with intent to cause harm to councilman Williams.

According to court documents, the second count alleges abuse of process, and the third alleges Smith’s suit is frivolous and groundless and contributes to the “effort to harass and/or maliciously injure Councilman Williams.”

Williams also filed a suit against Santelli Aug. 30, 2022, that claimed Santelli was “conspiring with others” to make “false, defamatory statements… with the intent to harm Councilman Williams and Councilman Williams’ reputation.” The two counts in the suit alleged defamation per se, as well as invasion of privacy (false light).

The false light allegation claims Santelli “demanded” that the Boone County Council president remove Williams from his committee assignments, and if he was not removed from the council, “he [Santelli] would contact the media and ‘leak’ information about Williams,” according to court documents.

In the spring and summer of 2021, the county commissioners sought to have the county council approve the development of a new Boone County Justice Center and approve a tax on Boone County taxpayers to help fund the project.

Williams’ counterclaim and suit against Santelli state that Williams’ reluctance to approve the project motivated the alleged conspiracy, according to court documents.