Several citizens spoke out against the new executive director of the Saline County Health Department Tuesday morning, including one former employee accusing him of sexual harassment.
Melissa Lill of Brookville spoke out during the public forum session of the Saline County Commission televised meeting against the hiring of Bronson Farmer as the health department’s new executive director. Commissioners last week chose Bronson to head the agency, choosing him over interim executive director Suzette Brotton. Farmer is a former lead sanitarian for the department.
Lill said that she has nothing to gain or lose by speaking out because she no longer is employed by the health department, saying that she was compelled to come forward “to make sure the women at the health department are actually protected”.
Lill said that she worked with Farmer while both employed at the health department. She accused him of several incidents of sexual misconduct.
According to Lill, in 2006 she and Farmer set up for an event at Rolling Hills Zoo. She said that while sitting at a table waiting for 6th grade students to come around that Bronson said “Hey Melissa”. She went on to say “when I turned around he had his pants undone, with his penis pulled out in his hand waving it at me”. She said that she reported the incident to her supervisor, the director, and to human resources. She added that she also filed a report with the Saline County Sheriff’s Office.
Lill accuses Farmer on another occasion of grabbing her hand and placing it on his crotch while the two of them were in a car together. She said that she again reported this to the the proper people at the agency, and also to the Salina Police Department.
Lill also accused Farmer of “taking pictures of my but and showing it to vendors” while the two were performing inspections at the Smoky Hill River Festival. She said this incident was also reported.
Lill said that “nothing was done” about any of the incidents. “I worry that with him having a position of authority he is going to abuse it and do the same thing to other women”.
A couple of other people also spoke out against Farmer, and against the county commission for hiring him. Judy Larson of Salina said she not only is disgusted with the commission, but that she will carefully consider any candidates who might oppose their reelection. She added that at this point her cat Greta would be a better candidate.
A structure problem with the roof caused the health department to close back in May of 2012. At the time it was jointly operated by the City of Salina and Saline County. City and county commissioners were unable to come up with a plan both could agree on for a permanent facility. Ultimately, the joint city-county department became a stand alone county agency. Longtime executive director Yvonne Gibbons retired at the end of the year, prompting county commissioners to begin a search for her replacement that culminated with Farmer’s hiring last week.