A Miami-Dade judge has ruled in favor of the city of Miami Springs and a former public works director in a sexual harassment case that wound its way for years through federal and state courts.
“I feel exonerated,” said Robert Williams, who served as Miami Springs’ public works director for 24 years.
Williams abruptly resigned in 2012 from his $97,549-year-post. Shortly after, former Miami Springs employee Caroline Howard filed a sexual harassment, wrongful termination and retaliation lawsuit against Williams and the city alleging she was sexually harassed, then punished when she reported the harassment.
Howard, who reported to the 6-foot, 300-pound Williams, said she was forced to perform oral sex on him during work hours, according to the lawsuit, originally filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in 2012. The case was transferred to federal court and then back to circuit court.
Howard also said Williams groped her and sent a cellphone photo of his penis.
According to the suit, Howard complained to city officials but was told she “should not take any offense” to Williams’ behavior. The city fired Howard in 2012.
Attorneys for Miami Springs stated in a June 2015 court filing that Williams and Howard “had been engaged in a consensual relationship.” The matter arose “exclusively from her feelings of frustration and betrayal after her relationship with Williams” ended.
“The record confirms a complete absence of causation,” states the city’s Motion for Summary Judgment, which was granted Jan. 7 by Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Peter Lopez. Howard did not have an attorney and could not be reached for comment. Miami Springs City Attorney Jan Seiden declined comment.
Williams said he now looks forward to receiving the severance pay promised to him by City Manager Ron Gorland upon his 2012 resignation. Williams did not say exactly how much the negotiated package was worth.
“No comment,” Gorland wrote to the Miami Herald on Wednesday, when asked about Williams’ severance package.
Aside from severance pay, Williams has put the matter behind him and moved on. Now a sanitation department supervisor for the city of Miami, he visits Miami Springs often and said he stays in touch with friends in the community he served for nearly a quarter century.