Fallout from a Bedford County Fire & Rescue lieutenant having inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old volunteer led to a lawsuit filed this year that’s set to end in a settlement.
Larry Scott Hawkins, 54, is serving his three-year sentence imposed in May for sexually soliciting a minor and assault and battery against another minor.
A longtime chief of the Montvale Volunteer Fire Company, Hawkins helped train underage volunteers for Bedford County Fire & Rescue. One of his victims sued Hawkins in Bedford Circuit Court in January and then sued Bedford County in federal court in June as “Jane Doe.”
She demanded $30 million in damages from Bedford County, claiming the county allowed for sexual harassment and assault of women by the male employees of Bedford County Fire & Rescue.
Central to her claims was a confidential investigation report that became the subject of much legal squabbling this year.
After Hawkins was arrested and charged in February 2018, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office investigated Bedford County Fire & Rescue and its policies. A report from that investigation was handed over to county officials April 24, 2018, but remained confidential.
Representing Bedford County, attorney Jennifer Royer claimed in court documents Doe and her attorney got a copy of the report “through an undisclosed source that did not have authorization to release” it.
Attorney Gary Bowman, who is representing Doe, asserted in court documents the county handed him the report willingly while he was working on the civil case against Hawkins.
The lawsuit quoted the report in that it called for “organizational changes” that “must start at the policy-making level,” found the department has “a male dominated culture in which females feel pressure to prove themselves before they are accepted,” and certain failures within the department need to be addressed.
An order filed in U.S. District Court in Lynchburg on Dec. 23 indicates a confidential settlement conference will take place in July, where both parties will present their side of the case. The order encourages them to try and negotiate with each other in the meantime.
Bowman said this past week the case is “proceeding well.”
“We are happy that the court has advanced the case so that there is a possibility of resolving the parties’ dispute amicably with the settlement judge’s guidance before trial,” he wrote in an email.
The lawsuit against Hawkins is set for trial in Bedford Circuit Court in March.
Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.