This is an update to a story that was shared back in May regarding a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Explore Elk Grove Executive Director John Thompson and a city of Elk Grove employee, Rachael Brown.
The Visit Elk Grove Board of Directors issued a short press release on Thompson’s resignation. Rachael Brown, who was also named in the lawsuit, is expected to take over as interim executive director.
Comment by Visit Elk Grove Board of Directors on the Resignation of Its Executive Director
July 23, 2019
Elk Grove, CA – Visit Elk Grove and Executive Director John Thompson have elected to end their employment relationship. Mr. Thompson’s last day of employment will be August 15, 2019. All inquiries regarding on-going Visit Elk Grove business should be directed to Rachael Brown, Board Chair, effective immediately. The Board will have no further comment on this or any other personnel matter.
May 9, 2019
A local marketing consultant has filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually harassed by the Executive Director of Explore Elk Grove, John “JT” Thompson. Kristin Berkery owner of Kristin Berkery Design, worked as a contractor for Explore Elk Grove (AKA Visit Elk Grove) to help promote and market events in the City of Elk Grove. Also named in the lawsuit was city employee Rachael Brown.
Explore Elk Grove is a non-profit mutual benefit corporation. They are funded by taxes paid by local hotels that is collected by the City of Elk Grove.
Berkery posted the lawsuit on her Facebook page earlier today. The lawsuit alleges that Thompson repeatedly attempted to establish a personal relationship with her through text and in person comments, and that the alleged sexual harassment continued even after Berkery told Thompson she was not interested in a relationship. The lawsuit also alleges that Thompson retaliated against her and eventually fired her due to having his advances rebuffed.
The lawsuit included copies of texts between Berkery and Thompson. Berkery alleged there was a pattern of Thompson making advances, then apologizing for his actions and then repeating the advances and apologies.
In the lawsuit Berkery states she met with Thompson on August 6 to interview for a position to help Explore Elk Grove marketing. Thompson requested a bid and on August 13 accepted Berkery’s bid and signed a contract. Later that day the two ran into each other while picking up their kids at the same school. The two exchanged texts and calls as part of their work.
On August 26, Berkery received a text from Thompson, that she said left her “stunned and apprehensive.”
Berkery did not respond to the text and then at 11 pm that night received a text from Thompson that said, “Hi, I’m so sorry and very embarrassed…Please accept my apology.”
According to the lawsuit, Berkery said the advances continued. On October 20, Thompson and Berkery attended an event for the Strauss Festival. The two rode together and after the event, Berkery stated Thompson made another advance on her when dropping her off. At around 12:30 am, Thompson sent two more texts to Berkery.
In the lawsuit Berkey stated she “was fearful for her physical safety and that of her children. Between the stress of her job and the strain of rejecting Thompson’s creepy advances, she was suffering from anxiety, insomnia, headaches and constant fatigue. ” It was after that night, that Berkery told Thompson again she was not interested in dating.
The lawsuit then details other allegations by Berkery that Thompson mismanaged dealings with another media company, Hearst Media, that was helping Explore Elk Grove with the proposed “Restaurant Week” in January of this year. Berkery said that ultimately led to Thompson firing her after she contacted Hearst Media about an issue with their interaction with Explore Elk Grove. Berkery was fired by email on January 4, 2019.
Berkery talked to Rachael Brown, a city employee in the Economic Development Department and chair of the Visit Elk Grove Board of Directors. An investigation was launched. In the lawsuit Berkery states,
She “talked to Brown, who told Plaintiff that “the investigation had been concluded.” Because the investigation involved a “personnel matter,” Brown said that she could not divulge any information. Brown said that, as far as Thompson’s sexual harassment of Plaintiff, “the issue had been addressed.” Brown assured Plaintiff that only a small number of people at the City had seen the final report. Plaintiff asked if everyone was supposed to move on from this and Brown answered, “Yes.” The conversation ended. Plaintiff concluded from Brown’s cryptic remarks that the City and Visit Elk Grove were burying Thompson’s misconduct to avoid bad publicity. His sexual harassment would be overlooked to protect Visit Elk Grove. Thompson continued to hold the top position at Visit Elk Grove.”
Elk Grove Laguna News reached out the City of Elk Grove and Explore Elk Grove for a comment. Elk Grove Public Affairs Kristyn Laurence replied: “Thanks for contacting me. As you may know, the City is not a party to the lawsuit. The lawsuit is directed at Visit Elk Grove, which is a non-profit entity separate from the City. The City will defer to Visit Elk Grove as to any response to the allegations contained in the lawsuit. “