Arizona pays $1.35 million to three women who said they were sexually harassed at PSPRS

The state has paid $1.35 million to settle claims from three women who alleged they were sexually harassed by the top administrator while working at the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.

The administrator, Jared Smout, was fired last year.

Chrystal Angotti, Shannon Hatch and Lisa Sweeting received settlements that were reached between late 2019 and April, according to documents recently obtained by The Arizona Republic under the state’s Public Records Law.

The state admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlements.

The women received millions of dollars less than they asked for in their notices of claims, legal documents that must be filed against the state prior to formal lawsuits. The notices allow the parties to reach a settlement instead of pursuing an expensive court case.

The state agreed to the settlements after Smout, the former PSPRS Administrator, admitted to state investigators that he had sexually harassed one employee for about a year and spent months during 2014 watching on surveillance video a staffer he was attracted to. He was fired in July 2019, following a whistleblower complaint filed with the Arizona Department of Administration, which conducted the investigation.

“PSPRS has spent about the last year and a half rebuilding its workplace culture, conducting training and strengthening policies aimed at preventing this very kind of misconduct by the previous administrator,” the pension fund for first responders, judges, elected officials and correctional officers said in a statement.

The largest payout — $955,000 — went to Chrystal Angotti, who was Smout’s secretary. She had sought $7 million. Angotti claims Smout sexually harassed her “almost daily” from January 2018 to April 2019.

Public records requested and obtained by The Republic show Angotti and Smout repeatedly told each other via PSPRS emails during work hours that they loved each other. Smout also sent Angotti numerous text messages telling her he loved her. The messages were exchanged during the 16 months Angotti claims Smout sexually harassed her.

“Ms. Angotti is pleased that the state did the right thing,” said Troy Foster, her attorney. “She was put through the ringer and Mr. Smout admitted to sexually harassing her in his own words. Any suggestion that Ms. Angotti was ‘flirtatious’ or somehow deserved what she got is ludicrous and frankly what lets these men do this.

“Luckily, the state did the right thing in getting rid of him and compensating Ms. Angotti. She hopes that others who are victimized feel empowered to stand up for themselves.”

Smout’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Other payouts went to Hatch ($249,000) and Sweeting ($150,000).

Hatch, who was seeking $3 million, claimed that Smout left her inappropriate notes, looked at her inappropriately and told her he had dreams about her. A call to her attorney was not returned. She is the agency’s member services project coordinator.

Sweeting, an internal audit officer who reported to Smout, had sought $7.5 million in damages.

Sweeting, who is Black, claimed she had to brush off sexual advances from another PSPRS executive who was fired, was verbally demeaned, and the “N-word” was used in her presence. She also claimed she was spied on.

The state investigation found Smout began spying on employees May 19, 2014, the day Sweeting began her employment at PSPRS.

Sweeting’s attorney said the case was resolved to his client’s satisfaction.