COURTS & LEGAL

Operation Underground Railroad files counterclaims against Tim Ballard accuser

Dec 19, 2023, 7:46 PM

Operation Underground Railroad has filed counterclaims against Celeste Borys, who has accused found...

Operation Underground Railroad has filed counterclaims against Celeste Borys, who has accused founder Tim Ballard of sexual assault in a lawsuit. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Operation Underground Railroad has filed counterclaims against a woman and her husband who claim the anti-trafficking organization failed to respond to reports of sexual assault alleged against founder and former CEO Tim Ballard.

Celeste Borys, a former employee of Operation Underground Railroad, filed an anonymous lawsuit against Ballard in October, accusing him of grooming and sexual assault she said ultimately led to her separation with her husband. She and her husband spoke publicly last month, along with four other women who have accused Ballard of sexual assault in a separate lawsuit.

In a court filing Monday, Operation Underground Railroad claims that Borys never reported Ballard’s alleged misconduct to the company and that she disputed the claims made by another Ballard accuser — who is identified by the pseudonym “JJ” — while Borys was serving as Ballard’s executive assistant.

After Ballard was placed on administrative leave in April 2023 pending an investigation into misconduct allegations, Operation Underground Railroad claims Borys was interviewed “in a confidential meeting relating to JJ’s allegations of sexual misconduct.”

“During Mr. Ballard’s leave and after his termination of employment, Ms. Borys made clear she thought JJ’s allegations and the investigation into Mr. Ballard were ‘fake news and evil’ — an opinion she expressed on multiple occasion(s) to OUR coworkers and leadership,” the new court filing alleges.

Operation Underground Railroad also claims Borys took time off from her work to travel with Ballard to promote the film “Sound of Freedom,” for which Ballard is an inspiration.

Although much of Ballard’s public persona has been centered on his purported rescue missions with Operation Underground Railroad, it claims in the new filing that the “perception” that the organization’s primary activity is “conducting ‘paramilitary drop-ins’ or ‘raids'” is “incorrect.”

The counterclaims say Ballard had “limited to no involvement in co-missions between 2016 and 2020 and even less so after 2020.” “Co-missions” refers to a variety of Operation Underground Railroad activities including operational, logistics, cyber, capacity building, aftercare and legal services, according to the new claims.

“Between 2020 and his termination in 2023, Mr. Ballard performed or participated in less than 1% of all OUR co-missions globally,” the court filing says.

The counterclaim filing also contends that “Sound of Freedom” appears to “focus loosely on perceived life events of Tim Ballard” and Operation Underground Railroad did not participate in the production.

Investigative reports from the Davis County Attorney’s Office obtained by KSL.com in September show that some former Operation Underground Railroad staffers alleged that the organization is rarely involved in actual rescues.

In the new filing, Operation Underground Railroad says its board “unanimously supports the conclusion that Mr. Ballard violated OUR policy,” and voted that he resign or be terminated. Ballard “separated from OUR on June 23, 2023,” it states.

Ballard has previously denied all claims of sexual assault.

Borys’ employment with Operation Underground Railroad was terminated on June 28, 2023, and the organization said she signed a separation and release agreement with the company in July in which she agreed not to file legal complaints against “any of the company parties.”

Operation Underground Railroad also alleges that Borys’ October lawsuit violates a nondisclosure agreement she signed when she joined the company in October 2021.

The organization is suing Borys and her husband, Mike Borys, for defamation. It is accusing Celeste Borys of breach of contract, fraud and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and is also asking the court to dismiss the Borys’ lawsuit. It is seeking unspecified general, special and punitive damages and attorney fees and seeks the return of company property and communications.

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Operation Underground Railroad files counterclaims against Tim Ballard accuser