A federal judge has ordered Ontario County to defend a former public defender who is accused in a civil action of harassing his secretary. The county had argued that it had no obligation to defend Thomas Kidera against allegations that he made unwanted advances to his confidential secretary, Stefanie Lang, because the alleged conduct arose from intentional misconduct.

Records show that Kidera resigned abruptly after the county advised him that it intended to bring disciplinary charges in relation to Lang’s allegations and a subsequent investigation. But Western District Judge Charles Siragusa (See Profile) held that a municipality has a broad duty to defend in a case, like this one, where there is no question the alleged misconduct occurred while the defendant was serving in an official capacity. Here, the alleged behavior took place within the public defender’s office .

In Lang v. Kidera/Kidera v. County of Ontario, 11-cv-6603, Siragusa, relying heavily on a holding by the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Dreyer v. City of Saratoga Springs, 43 AD3d 586 (2007), said: “If the allegations of the complaint suggest that any conduct asserted falls reasonably within the scope of employment, the duty to provide a defense is triggered since the duty to defend is extremely broad and exists regardless of how baseless the complaint may be.” Siragusa referred the underlying case to mediation and directed Ontario County to defend Kidera.