Division of Criminal Investigation chief Bryan Gortmaker and former DCI agent Mark Black really did discriminate and retaliate against former agent Laura Zylstra Kaiser for complaining about sexual harassment by a Brown County deputy. So ruled a jury in Aberdeen yesterday, which awarded Zylstra Kaiser $1.2 million in her civil rights lawsuit:
The jury awarded Kaiser:
- $400,000 for mental anguish, emotional suffering and loss of reputation.
- $311,812 for lost wages.
- $498,929 for lost benefits.
Through tears of joy, Kaiser’s mother, Dorothy Zylstra of Sturgis, said the verdict served as justice.
“It’s been six years of hell and justice has prevailed,” Zylstra said [Shannon Marvel, “Kaiser Awarded $1.2 Million in Damages from DCI, Former Agent,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.12.15].
You know who else is from Sturgis who had a stake in this lawsuit? Marty Jackley, the Attorney General who supported his DCI’s retaliation against Laura Zylstra Kaiser by denying her request for a transfer back to Aberdeen and her family from the crappy work conditions to which she was assigned in Pierre after her sexual harassment complaint. Marty Jackley, who at last check, was still supporting his nomination of an accused sexual harasser to the Board of Pardons and Parole. Marty Jackley, who as a gubernatorial candidate wants to be in charge of the entire state workforce.
Also facing political blowback is Brown County Sheriff Mark Milbrandt, whose former deputy Ross Erickson’s admission that he sexually harassed Zylstra Kaiser appears to have helped persuade the jury in the plaintiff’s favor. Milbrandt oversaw a department that helped exclude Zylstra Kaiser from effective working relationships, thus supporting the false narrative that former state’s attorney Kim Dorsett offered from the stand Thursday in which she portrayed Zylstra Kaiser as a “cancer” that needed to be removed. It appears now that Zylstra Kaiser was the healthy set of antibodies responding to the disease of sexual harassment and retaliation supported by the Brown County Sheriff’s Department that Milbrandt has run since his election in 1994 and which he wants to hold onto for another four years. Milbrandt faces his first challenger since 1994, Aberdeen policeman and legislator Dan Kaiser, whose wife just came into a million bucks that could be used to fund a pretty vigorous sheriff’s campaign.
The jury may also have thrown some marbles on the floor at City Hall, where former DCI agent Dave Lunzman now sits on the Aberdeen City Council. Zylstra Kaiser’s colleague at the time, Lunzman participated in the secret meeting with DCI agent Black, Deputy Erickson, Deputy Damian Bahr at Melgaard Park on October 20, 2011, the day that Black launched the retaliation campaign against Zylstra Kaiser. Lunzman stood shoulder to shoulder with coworkers to punish Zylstra Kaiser for speaking up about sexual harassment. Can city employees count on Councilman Lunzman to stand up for them if they find themselves subject to sexual harassment?
Ross Erickson admitted yesterday talking about Zylstra Kaiser’s butt (sorry, Laura, to mention that again). The jury’s big award yesterday indicates Erickson, Black, Lunzman, Milbrandt, Gortmaker, and Jackley were all more interested in covering their own butts than in dealing with sexual harassment seriously. Gortmaker’s and Black’s corrupt retaliation against a good cop will now cost the taxpayers (or at least our insurance pool) a lot of money. It could also cost three elected officials their jobs.