Local attorney Elmer Robert Keach is requesting to withdraw as counsel in a sexual harassment suit against Police Chief Thomas Brownell.
Keach submitted a letter to the court last week that pointed to a strained relationship with his client, Karen Ottati, who is claiming that Brownell and former mayor Joseph Emanuele III sexually harassed and discriminated against her while she worked as an administrative assistant at the police department.
In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Neal McCurn, Keach said his reasons for wanting to stop representing Ottati were “well-founded and compelling” and “had been brewing for some time.”
Keach declined to comment Thursday except to say that the letters he has filed with the court speak for themselves. He said he is expected to file an official motion to be allowed to withdraw from the case.
Ottati filed an original complaint with the state Division of Human Rights in 2005 and dropped it in favor of a federal suit in 2006. After her initial complaint, the city spent over $16,000 for an independent review of Ottati’s claims. An outside attorney, Lisa Joslin, conducted interviews with city staffers. Joslin’s findings were filed with the court under seal but a judge ruled earlier this year that motions referencing the report could be filed on the public docket and seven pages of the 62-page report were filed with court documents in February.
The filed pages pointed to a work environment at the police station that was “putting the city at risk.”
At the same time, Brownell withdrew his request for summary judgment in favor of pursuing the matter in court.
Keach requested that the court postpone any deadlines for 30 days while the court resolves Keach’s request and gives Ottati time to find new representation. Keach was Ottati’s second attorney in this case. She was previously represented by Amsterdam attorney Charles Swartz.
Ottati could not be reached for comment Thursday.