Two more Bryan Co. first responders sue emergency services over claims of assault, retaliation

Published: Oct. 13, 2023 at 5:00 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2023 at 5:13 PM EDT
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BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Two more first responders are filing lawsuits in Bryan County.

A current and former member of the county’s Fire and Emergency Services department sued back in July over allegations they were retaliated against after reporting misconduct to their superiors.

Now, two more first responders are suing the county, including one who says she was assaulted.

First Responder Courtney Badger has come forward in one of the new lawsuits and says she was assaulted by Kevin Tomko, a battalion chief with the department.

Jeff Harley, another member of the department, has filed the other lawsuit – stating that he was retaliated against for reporting an assault.

According to the lawsuit filed in Bryan County Superior Court, Badger says around January 2022 she and Tomko were at work when Tomko groped her as she was walking past him in the fire station.

As a result of the assault, Badger says she’s suffered anxiety, depression, and fear for her safety when at work.

Badger also says they continue to schedule her to work with Tomko, leading her to file for a temporary restraining order against him. She’s suing Tomko, along with Bryan County, Freddy Howell, the Chief of Bryan County Fire and Emergency Services, and Shannon Bancroft, a division chief.

In a separate lawsuit, Jeff Harley claims he learned of a sexual assault of a coworker, and reported it to his chain of command, which is Bancroft and Howell. Harley says they retaliated against him, refusing to promote him, or increase his pay in accordance with county policy.

Badger’s lawsuit also claims, “Despite receiving similarly situated lawsuits from two other BCFES employees… Defendants Howell and Bancroft have still not yet investigated the claims of sexual assault against Plaintiff or other survivors known to defendants.”

Those other two lawsuits, filed by first responders Sarah Bradbury and Summer Patterson in July for similar claims, have been moved to federal court, where they’re awaiting a decision. The other two cases remain in Bryan County.

WTOC talked to the lawyer for all four employees involved in the lawsuits, she released the following statement:

“Badger is a survivor of the assault and battery. Patterson, Bradbury, and Harley reported the assault, battery, and other dangerous behaviors happening in the ranks in efforts to protect their coworkers — and they were swiftly and harshly retaliated against.”

WTOC also reached out to Bryan County, and they provided us with the following statement:

“The Bryan County Emergency Services is comprised of professionals who are dedicated to protecting and caring for the public in emergency situations. Bryan County maintains a zero-tolerance policy and prohibition on all forms of discrimination, sexual harassment, and other misconduct in the workplace.”

WTOC also spoke to Shannon Bancroft, who says he has no comment. We’re waiting to hear back from other defense attorneys and defendants in the case.