BY JAMES BURGER AND GRETCHEN WENNER, Californian staff writers email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio talk show host Inga Barks, who left her regular gig on the airwaves at KERN 1180 last April 1, has filed a lawsuit charging former co-host Scott Cox of sexually harassing her and assaulting her for years.
The suit also accuses radio station owner American General Media of ignoring her pleas for help.
Her complaint, filed in Kern County Superior Court on Aug. 19 but not publicized until Wednesday, claims Cox started out as a supportive friend but, starting in 2002, became an abusive co-worker forcing her to kiss him, groping her and demanding various forms of sexual gratification from her.
When she complained to station managers, Barks claims, she was ignored.
When she confronted Cox about the behavior, her complaint alleges, he slammed her up against the wall in a hallway of the radio station then began to make disparaging remarks about her appearance and sexuality both on and off the air.
Jay Rosenlieb, attorney for AGM, said the business denies Barks’ claims.
“We have received the complaint. We are analyzing it. At this point the investigation we’re denying all the allegations,” he said.
Rogers Brandon, president of American General Media, said that “Inga continues to be an active employee of the radio station” who provides commentary and also does sponsorship endorsements for the company’s clients.
“While we vigorously deny the charges asserted in the lawsuit and plan to actively defend ourselves,” Brandon said, “we are hopeful there is an amicable resolution to this issue.”
Barks declined to comment.
Cox said his lawyer has advised him not to address Barks’ accusations.
Both Barks and Cox contribute columns to The Californian.
According to the lawsuit filing, Barks has worked for KERN 1180 since 1993, before it was acquired by AGM.
Cox joined the station in 2000 and, when Barks’ husband was hospitalized in Los Angeles later that year, was a big supporter in her “dark time,” the complaint states.
But Cox began making inappropriate comments after her husband was released from the hospital, she alleged.
And things got worse, Barks alleges, when the two were paired on a four-hour radio show in 2002.
Cox made demands for sexual favors, began touching, groping and kissing Barks during that time, she says.
When she asked him to stop, Barks claims, Cox began insulting her on and off the radio airwaves — musing about whether she had “fake” breasts, about the size of her genitals and whether she had sexually transmitted diseases.
The troubles continued for years during which, she claimed, Cox repeatedly asked her for sexual intercourse and oral sex and blocked her path in halls and doorways until he obtained a kiss from her.
“Barks on occasions capitulated in order to avoid further harassment from Cox,” the complaint reads. Later it states, “Given her husband’s past then and present critical condition, Barks was compelled to stay and work in the intolerable conditions described.”
Throughout the period, Barks claims, station management dismissed her complaints to them saying, “Oh that’s just Scott.”
Finally, on March 27, 2010, Cox repeatedly demanded sex from Barks during a show and then ambushed her after the broadcast, grabbed her buttocks and “pulled her into him for a kiss.”
On April 1, Barks announced suddenly that she was leaving the air on her regular morning show.
She told reporters at the time she was leaving because she wanted to spend more time with family and because of her husband, who was fighting to recover his health after kidney and pancreatic transplants failed in 2009.
“I’m exhausted,” she said in April. “I need to ratchet it back and do what is necessary for my family. You're still going to hear me on local radio.”
Rosenlieb agreed that the incidents recounted in the complaint were shocking and scandalous.
But he said the complaints must now move through the routine legal process before they can be brought before a jury.
“Any allegation can be made in a complaint and, to a certain extent, is protected by a privilege. She can say whatever she wants and take her chances,” he said.
American General Media maintains that those claims are false, he said.
But, Rosenlieb added, “she’s a valued employee and we wish her the best.”