Whether elected officials are county employees at the center of Floyd Co. harassment trial

WAVERLY, Iowa — Attorneys on both sides of Theresa Farmer’s civil lawsuit against Floyd County spent the morning refining what may be central questions for jurors.

Among those was the issue of whether Farmer and her former boss, Jesse Marzen, were employees of Floyd County. And if so, was Marzen’s behavior while county attorney covered by policies outlined in Floyd County’s employee handbook?

Beyond that, jurors may take up the question of whether Floyd County officials, including Auditor Gloria Carr and the board of supervisors, followed those policies.

To bolster their position, Farmer’s attorneys introduced a videotaped deposition of Jenny Tracy of Austin, Texas. Tracy worked for Marzen as a paralegal for about eight weeks, according to her testimony. The period was was late November 2009 through early January 2010, she said.

Suspiscion about Marzen’s conduct developed during her initial interview for the job, Tracy said. Besides standard questions, Tracy said Marzen asked if she offended easily.

“He also asked what the dirtiest joke was I knew,” Tracy said on the videotape.

Other situations that made Tracy feel “uncomfortable,” and “degraded and demeaned” developed within days, according to her testimony. On one occasion, Tracy testified Marzen came up behind her as she worked, stood nearby by for an “awkward” amount of time and then made a crude sexual comment.

Marzen also asked Tracy to stay after hours, which, she testified, made her uncomfortable. During one incident, Tracy said Marzen made her stand close to him while he checked her work.

Tracy said she believed the employee handbook applied to everyone in the Floyd County Courthouse, including elected officials, and staff members, but also vendors and visitors to the building.

“It was my understanding it applied to all county employees across the board, including the county attorney,” Tracy said.

The handbook, she added, also demanded “personal integrity” from employees but promised they could “work in harmony” and receive “fair treatment and consideration” in return.

Tracy noted what she described as an obligation to report sexual harassment to either the board of supervisors or county auditor’s office.