Former Clay Sheriff Lancaster fired from State Attorney's Office over sexual harassment complaint

New details emerged Friday about State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s dismissal late last month of investigator and former Clay County Sheriff Scott Lancaster.

Nelson fired Lancaster after he became the subject of a sexual harassment complaint on May 8 filed by a coworker, according to an internal memo summarizing the investigation into his conduct.

Nelson had defended hiring Lancaster just four months ago, saying she had “complete confidence” in him despite a 10-year-old grand jury report that called him an embarrassment to the citizens of Clay County because he had used a county credit card for personal benefit.

Lancaster didn’t answer phone calls Friday, and Nelson declined to comment, but her spokesman said they are planning to offer sexual harassment training to the office.

The 144-page memo led Nelson to dismiss Lancaster on May 31. Lancaster, who was hired in February and was earning a $60,000 a year salary, was suspended after the allegations surfaced.

“Having reviewed the allegations of misconduct and a memorandum of the investigation conducted I am taking this action,” Nelson wrote in a termination letter.

Lancaster responded with a resignation letter disputing what he characterized as “frivolous” allegations but acknowledged they would nonetheless impair his job performance and the work of the State Attorney’s Office going forward.

The memo said a woman reported that Lancaster had greeted her on at least two occasions with “something to the effect of ‘good morning, gorgeous’ or ‘good morning, beautiful.’” Then he asked her on the phone if she was “covered up,” which she interpreted as a question about if she was clothed. That phone conversation was on speaker phone and witnessed by someone else. Later, she reported, he asked her to meet with him because “he heard how nice she looked today, and he wanted to see for himself.”

A co-worker reported that the woman appeared flustered afterward and even wondered, “What am I supposed to wear to work?”

After the woman reported what happened to Special Assault Director Dan Skinner, Skinner shared her confidential comments with Lancaster, the memo said.

First Assistant State Attorney Steve Siegel confronted Lancaster with the allegations and told him that if he resigned, the investigation would end. Lancaster said he wouldn’t resign.

He was suspended on May 11, pending the results of the investigation.

Lancaster came from a powerful family in Clay County politics and was first elected sheriff in 1992. He lost his third re-election bid in 2004 after a grand jury investigation concluded that he had embarrassed the citizens of the county with his improper use of a county-issued credit card, buying alcohol and underwear and plane tickets. The grand jury declined to indict him because he made “sporadic efforts” to pay back the charges and he did not conceal the purchases.

After leaving office, Lancaster went to work for St. Johns River State College as the school’s director of criminal justice training, a role he held until 2009.

After Nelson hired Lancaster in February, her spokesman said that the former sheriff was hired to be a “senior, experienced voice on investigations” and that Nelson had “complete confidence in his abilities.”

Florida Times-Union


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