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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No Protection From Town Cop, Woman Says

BUTLER, Pa. (CN) - The police officer in charge of Saxonburg used legal documents to get information he used to sexually harass a woman with late-night phone calls and obscene text messages, including "don't want relationship, just want laid," the woman claims in Butler County Court. When she complained, she says, the town had the officer investigate himself, and he continued harassing her.

Carolyn Oravitz sued the Borough of Saxonburg for sexual harassment. She claims that Officer Erik Bergstrom, the police officer in charge of the town, obtained information about her when she called the police station "to obtain a proof of service for some legal papers."

Six days later, she says, "Officer Erik Bergstrom used the information Mrs. Oravitz gave him to begin a campaign of sexual harassment which included a series of late night telephone calls, obscene text messages. The text message was, 'don't want relationship, just want laid.' Officer Bergstrom's other messages and phone calls were equally graphic in nature, and highly offensive."

She says she complained to the borough, but Bergstrom continued calling to sexually harass her, including a call at 3:12 a.m. She says the borough asked Bergstrom to investigate himself, and that "Bergstrom's investigation of his own misconduct ... consisted of intimidating Mrs. Oravitz by stalking her by driving past her house. It was intended to intimidate the plaintiff and did intimidate the plaintiff."

When she filed a second complaint of sexual harassment, the borough turned it over to Bergstrom again, she says. "Officer Bergstrom used his authority to investigate as a tool to continue the sexual harassment," according to the complaint.

"Officer Bergstrom's investigation of his own misconduct consisted of intimidating Mrs. Oravitz by interviewing her husband's employer to get her husband suspended. After the interview her husband was suspended," she says.

When she complained of Bergstrom's sexual harassment a third time, she says, the borough referred it to Bergstrom again, and he returned to talk with her husband's boss, who came to their home "in an attempt to stop plaintiff from proceeding any further with her claims to the Saxonburg Borough." Two days later, her husband was fired, she says.

She says Bergstrom eventually resigned, but Saxonburg gave him a favorable recommendation and he got a job in Fawn Township - where she lives. She seeks damages and an injunction. She is represented by Daniel Ernsberger of Pittsburgh.

Only the borough - not Bergstrom - is named as a defendant.

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