A Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office captain was demoted to a lieutenant following allegations he sexually harassed a subordinate.
The Sheriff’s Office launched an internal affairs investigation into the conduct of then-Capt. Scott Haines in late 2019 after a female employee accused Haines of making sexual advances toward her and showing her a sex toy he kept in his office. Haines admitted to the incident involving the sex toy, but denied claims that he made sexual advances toward the subordinate.
Investigators said there was not enough information to determine if Haines had sexually propositioned the subordinate. Still, they did conclude Haines displayed a sexual device to the employee in violation of department standards of conduct and integrity.
Department records say the demotion was effective as of Jan. 31.
According to testimony from both Haines and his accuser, they had a consensual sexual encounter in 2016.
Haines said he never pursued any other sort of sexual activity with the employee, and she said after the encounter that she and Haines got along with no problems until she separated from her husband in late 2019.
The accuser alleged Haines started to come into her office, close the door and suggest she do him sexual favors, or leave the door open and "gesture toward his crotch without saying anything." She estimated that there were at least a dozen occasions where Haines made lewd comments or suggestions.
She said she was initially afraid to make a complaint against Haines, alleging he had made intimidating statements about having "dirt" on people in the office, and that as her supervisor, "(Haines) had control over my whole world, so to speak."
The accuser reportedly told investigators that on one occasion, she went into Haines’ office to discuss a conflict she was having with a co-worker, and Haines pulled a pair of black, silk underwear from his desk with a sex toy attached and asked if she wanted them.
In a subsequent interview with investigators, Haines said he had never sexually solicited the employee. He said they sometimes they exchanged jokes and banter that could be considered "inappropriate," but he said the employee had willingly participated in the banter and never given any indication she was upset or offended by it.
Haines claimed the subordinate had suggested he accompany her on a work-related trip and indicated she would have a hotel room and they could spend some time together. To corroborate, Haines provided registration paperwork she allegedly filled out on his behalf.
Addressing the sex toy incident, Haines said he had purchased the underwear in 2018 as a gag. He said he bought them off a website called wish.com after he and a colleague joked there was nothing the website didn’t have. He said he had showed the underwear to his subordinate in an attempt to lighten the mood during a stressful conversation and that she appeared to find it funny.
The internal affairs investigator ultimately concluded "while the behavior described by (the accuser) does indeed constitute sexual harassment, there is not sufficient information to determine whether it is she or Haines who is being truthful regarding these alleged comments or her participation in the conversations."
However, the investigator wrote the investigation clearly substantiated the incident when Haines displayed a sexual device to the employee in his office with no legitimate purpose, a policy violation.
Haines has the right to appeal his demotion.
Kevin Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8527.