Sheila McLaughlin reports
A court reporter has filed a complaint against a Butler County common pleas judge saying he retaliated against her after their 9-year extra-marital affair ended when his wife found out in December.
Jennifer Olivier said Judge Michael Sage, who has been on the bench since 1991, “abused his judicial authority” by directing his staff and others at the courthouse to treat her harshly and intimidate her, according to a complaint she filed with Court Administrator Gary Yates last week.
After the affair ended, Olivier, who has worked for the court since 2002, was moved from Sage’s court to serve in a pool of court reporters, she alleges in the complaint obtained by The Enquirer on a public records request.
For Olivier, that meant making less money on transcripts that were ordered by attorneys on high-profile trials.
Olivier, who claims that she was involved in an average of 20 trials a year working for Sage, made about $50,000 in salary in 2011 and about $31,000 in transcript fees, according to payroll records obtained by The Enquirer.
Butler County common pleas judges decided in January to change their policy of having court reporters assigned to certain judges.
Olivier claims Sage is behind the change and that it was done to target her.
Judge Charles Pater, who is the administrative judge of Butler County Common Pleas Court, said in a prepared statement that he is having an independent investigator look into the allegations.
Pater said the investigator will “determine the truthfulness of the allegations and … make recommendations to the court.”
“The court will respond appropriately to the investigator’s findings and recommendations,” Pater said.
Scott Warrick, an attorney and human resource consultant, took the job Tuesday and will be paid $250 an hour, said Yates.
Olivier said her complaint contained only the highlights of the discriminatory treatment, retaliation and harassment that are ongoing.
“It is clear that Judge Sage has not been able to manage our personal relationship to avoid an adverse impact upon the workplace,” she said.
“I believe that Judge Sage has abused judicial authority by directing other court employees and others to engage in intimidating and offensive actions towards me and thereby creating a hostile work environment that is so stressful as to force me to quit.”
Olivier, who is married with two young children, was at work on Tuesday, as was Sage.
Olivier and Sage, whose six-year term expires in February 2015, could not be reached for comment. Sage is one of seven general division judges in common pleas court.
Sage’s attorney, George D. Jonson, did not return several calls from The Enquirer.
Olivier said Sage, whom she has known for 20 years, pursued her to have a relationship with him in February 2003, eight months after she was hired as a part-time reporter. She became a full-time court reporter in late 2006, and was assigned to Sage’s courtroom the following year.
After that she said Sage treated her as one of his staff which he called “Team Sage” team, inviting her to birthday and holiday parties. He also had her perform jobs for him that were outside the scope of her employment at the courthouse, such as setting up judge conferences and even helping with funeral arrangements for his father.
She said Sage had a habit of boasting about “how his friends and various attorneys accused him of sleeping with half of the court reporters,” because he had taken measures to protect their jobs in 2003 when other judges were talking about terminating the county’s court-reporting program.
“Judge Sage publicly announced to all the court reporters that he loved that people thought that and he did nothing to discourage the rumors,” Olivier wrote.
She said Sage started talking to her in 2010 about wanting to divorce his wife, who was retired and lived in Florida.
But Sage abruptly broke off the affair on Dec. 16, Olivier said, after his wife made a surprise visit from Florida.
He suggested Olivier be assigned to another courtroom, Olivier wrote, and later excluded her from the office Christmas party which Olivier called a discriminatory act.