Former secretary sues Fayette district judge, charging sexual abuse

Friday, February 25, 2005 By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The former secretary of a Fayette County district judge sued him yesterday in federal court, saying he subjected her to unwanted sexual advances and then fired her when she complained.

Barbara Shaffer, 49, of Dunbar, said in her complaint that District Judge Robert Breakiron fondled her, exposed himself to her and forced her into having sex on the couch in his office on Moyer Road in Connellsville.

After she said she had contacted police, according to the complaint, he started subjecting her to "unwarranted discipline" and then fired her Feb. 11 after she missed three days of work.

Reached at his office yesterday, Breakiron denied the sex allegations and said he fired Shaffer when she stopped coming to work after missing the three days.

"This is all news to me," he said. "She was terminated for not showing up for work."

Shaffer's lawyer, , would not answer specific questions about the lawsuit, although he did say Shaffer reported the sexual abuse to state police in Greensburg. Cordes said the nature of the alleged abuse was such that it would be covered under the sexual harassment law, not the criminal statutes, so it wasn't rape. But he wouldn't comment beyond that.

State police did not return messages seeking confirmation that they had received a complaint from Shaffer.

According to the lawsuit, Shaffer had worked for Breakiron since 1992. For the past five years, she said, the magistrate subjected her to "unwanted sexual contact" in the office. She also said he twice "required" her to have sex. She said she contacted police after the last incident, after which he began criticizing her job performance.