An employee of a Tacoma church says in a recently filed lawsuit that the pastor there sexually harassed her for years and that local and regional church officials did nothing to stop it.
Sharon O’Toole seeks unspecified damages from Mason United Methodist Church, the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Joseph E. Miller, now retired.
Attorneys Andrea McNeely and Shelly Andrew filed the suit on O’Toole’s behalf last month in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
O’Toole says, among other things, that Miller made “frequent unwanted sexual advances” toward her, engaged in “unwanted physical touching,” told her about his sex life “in grotesque detail” and forcibly kissed her on at least one occasion.
She said the alleged harassment began shortly after she began working as an office administrator in 2002 and continued until Miller resigned in 2011.
O’Toole complained about the behavior to Miller and the church, but nothing was done until she hired a lawyer, her suit states.
“The defendants’ betrayal of Ms. O’Toole has been destructive, imposing stress and damaging Ms. O’Toole’s work and well-being,” the suit states.
The Rev. Sharon Moe is superintendent of the Tacoma District of the Pacific Northwest Conference, the regional governing body of the denomination. She said the conference learned of allegations of misconduct by Miller in November 2011.
Church leaders met with Miller shortly thereafter, and he resigned a few days later, she said. He has not worked as a clergyman in a United Methodist Church since.
Citing the pending lawsuit, Moe declined to say more about the allegations or what the church has done to address them.
“Let us hold all of the parties involved in this situation, and our church community, in our prayers, that God might bring forth healing, peace, wisdom, compassion and justice,” she said.
Efforts to reach Miller were unsuccessful.Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime @TNTadam