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Public works director is suspended

The city suspended Public Works Director Daniel Sawyer for 10 days without pay Monday after completing an investigation into two employees' allegations of sexual harassment.

City officials announced Sawyer's suspension would take effect Oct. 31 for improper contact with a female employee and receiving inappropriate materials at his office.

"The city has investigated the complaints . . . and further investigation will be done," said City Manager Bruce Banning, referring to a pending federal lawsuit.

Gail Hollis and Danita Eatman filed suit against Sawyer in August, charging him with a host of sexual harassment offenses.

Among other charges, the women say Sawyer, a 36-year city employee, exposed himself, demanded sexual favors and physically attacked them to force them to have sex.

The suit also says Sawyer received pornographic magazines and tapes at his office and tried to force the women to watch them with him.

Both women still work for the city in other departments. Efforts to reach Sawyer on Monday were unsuccessful.

But Banning said Monday the city's investigation found only enough evidence to show that there was "physical" contact between Sawyer and Eatman, and "inappropriate" materials were received at the office.

He declined to go into detail on the nature of the contact or the types of materials. He said the city is prepared to fight the lawsuit in court.

Banning said Sawyer disputed most of the allegations described in the lawsuit and there were no witnesses to substantiate the women's allegations.

In the case of contact between Sawyer and Eatman, a third party saw the incident occur, Banning said, and Sawyer admitted to it.

"The rest of the allegations were not sustained," said Banning, who is also named along with the city in the lawsuit filed in August.

But the lawyer for the two women seemed incredulous Monday that the city stopped short of supporting the remainder of his clients' accusations.

"It's just really kind of bizarre that they're going to believe some things and not believe the whole story," said Edward Scott, an Ocala lawyer.

Sawyer was previously suspended without pay in May for having staff members in his office prepare his breakfasts.

At the time, Sawyer admitted to the charges, but said he didn't know it was a violation of personnel rules.

"I didn't realize I was violating anything," he said at the time.

_ Staff writer Tim Grant contributed to this report.