Cook County Sheriff's Office

Cook County reaches $350K settlement with former sheriff’s deputy

A former deputy with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department will receive $350,000 to drop a lawsuit alleging she experienced sexual discrimination on the job.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners agreed Nov. 23 to pay former sheriff’s deputy Julie Collman in the form of a settlement after she filed a lawsuit citing claims of sexual discrimination.

Collman originally filed her complaint against Cook County and Chief Deputy Will Sandstrom in September 2020. The complaint alleges that Sandstrom “routinely lost his temper with Collman and engaged in verbally abusive behavior toward her.”

The complaint continues: “In approximately 2015 and 2016, Collman confronted Sandstrom about his behavior and told him that she felt he was targeting her because she was a female deputy in a largely male department. Collman told Sandstrom that because she was a woman, she felt he believed that he could get away with picking on her… Sandstrom’s harassing behavior intensified after Collman reported her concerns to him.”

Collman was hired as a deputy in the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in 2004. The complaint reads that she served as the primary criminal sexual conduct investigator and was the main investigator of child protection and vulnerable adult cases.

Throughout the majority of her employment with the county, Collman was the only full-time female deputy serving in the Cook County Sheriff’s office, according to the complaint. On May 9, 2019, Collman resigned from her position as a deputy in the sheriff’s department “due to the intolerable working conditions.”

In a statement sent to WTIP Nov. 23, Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken wrote: “The Cook County Board today authorized resolution of a claim of sexual discrimination by former employee Julie Collman. Cook County was represented by attorney Kendra Olson in the lawsuit, who recommended resolution as a better and more certain outcome than litigation of the claim.

In exchange for release of claims against the county related to her former employment, Collman agreed to accept payment in the amount of $350,000. Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust contributed $225,000 toward the total settlement. During discussion of the motion to approve the agreement, commissioners referred to the preference to reduce risk and thereby serve the best interests of the county and the organization.”

WTIP asked Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen if Sandstrom was disciplined as a result of the accusations made by Collman. WTIP also asked county officials if Sandstrom is undergoing any special training as a result of the lawsuit and the allegations by Collman. County officials declined to comment on the questions.

In July 2018, Collman and Sandstrom participated in a mediation at the recommendation of Eliasen, according to the complaint. Court documents state that the mediation concluded with a plan that required Sandstrom to initiate weekly one-on-one meetings with Collman. Sandstrom never followed through with the mediation plan and his hostile behavior toward Collman did not improve, according to the complaint.

The case was set to go to a jury trial on Dec. 13. No trial is required following the $350,000 settlement.

The audio below is Cook County Board Chair Dave Mills describing the settlement during the Nov. 23 meeting.