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David Siegel must pay woman $5.4 million

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 10:14 PM

Orlando billionaire David Siegel must pay woman $5.4 million in sexual-harassment case

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David Siegel is shown in this December 2007 photo.

The woman who sued Central Florida billionaire David Siegel for sexual-harassment was awarded $5.4 million by a federal jury this afternoon.

The jury awarded her more than $5 million in damages, saying Dawn Georgette Myers worked in a hostile environment when she worked for the timeshare mogul. The damages were granted, at least in part, for an alleged battery Siegel subjected Myers to in which he pressed her up against a wall and touched her. Myers also claimed that Siegel he offered her $1 million for sex.
After the verdict, Siegel said he was surprised by the verdict and thought he was being singled out because of his wealth. His attorney said they would file motions to have the verdict set aside, and if necessary, appeal. U.S. District Judge John Antoon II had previously thrown out the case, but an appeals court ruled last year that he had to re-hear a part of the case alleging a hostile work environment created by Siegel against the woman.
Myers worked for Siegel for 14 years in a series of sales and management jobs. She declined to comment after Wednesday's verdict.

When the suit was filed in 2004, Siegel said he once wanted more than a professional relationship with the woman that he admitted in court papers he kissed on the lips while they danced together at a public function.

"She's using an attraction I had for her eight years ago as the basis of all of this," Siegel said in a telephone interview in June 2004. "Once I met my current wife in 1997, I never had any more interest in her. Maybe it's a woman scorned."

A beautician by training and a 1982 Colonial High School graduate, Myers started working for Siegel's empire of 7,000 salespeople in 1986.

By the late 1990s, she was paid $80,000 a year and earned as much as $104,000, according to her tax returns.

According to her deposition, Myers considered Siegel a mentor and close friend until he divorced his first wife, Betty, in the mid-1990s. After that, Myers said, he wanted her to be his lover while going through a divorce that cost him $200 million to settle.
On one business trip with Siegel to New York City, she said, her boss rented them a one-bedroom suite at the Plaza Hotel. She said she locked him out and slept fully clothed before returning to Orlando early the next morning.

Unwanted touching and sexual propositions continued even after his second marriage, when his current wife, Jacqueline, began asking Myers to join them for a m?nage a trios, according to Myers' lawsuit.

The Sentinel reported in 2004 that Myers also named at least one other female co-worker in the lawsuit who complained that Jacqueline Siegel made sexual advances to her.

Myers said she was fired in December 2000, about six months after she broke off her relationship with Siegel's son, Richard.

Siegel said he fired Myers for failing to turn a profit on a health spa she managed for him. "Here's a girl who claims all this terrible stuff, yet she comes to me and borrows money to buy her condo," he said. "You're a target for these people, and you've got to defend yourself."

Copyright ? 2008, Orlando Sentinel

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