A woman who claims embattled Pacific Mayor Herbert "Cy" Sun molested her when she was a teenager in the 1960s filed a lawsuit Wednesday, claiming emotional distress, humiliation and mental anguish. Sun denies the allegations.

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A woman who claims embattled Pacific Mayor Herbert Cy” Sun sexually abused and molested her when she was a teenager in the 1960s filed a lawsuit Wednesday, claiming emotional distress, humiliation and mental anguish.

Kathy Carbaugh, 57, said she and her family were neighbors of Sun’s, and that he molested her repeatedly over an 18-month period in 1968, starting when she was 14.

Carbaugh, who now lives in California, said she was compelled to act after she returned to the Tacoma area in December and saw news clips about Sun’s election as a write-in mayoral candidate. She said she has watched as Sun, 82, has caused upset in the small town, east of Tacoma.

Last month, Sun tried to fire many of the city’s employees, including police officers and the city clerk. The acts have prompted a recall effort, complete with pickets in front of City Hall.

Sun denied the allegations Wednesday, and pointed out that Carbaugh’s claims were investigated by police at the time and criminal charges were never filed.

“If they want to bring the case up again, they can,” he said. “I do remember [her] and I won that case.”

Carbaugh’s lawsuit, filed in Pierce County Superior Court, cites a Washington state law that allows survivors of child abuse a wide-ranging statute of limitations: They can file up to three years after the abuse occurs; three years after they turn 18; three years from when they remember the abuse; or three years after they understand how the abuse damaged them.

Carbaugh’s attorney, Jason Amala, of Seattle, used the same statute in a suit filed by a man who had been sexually abused between 1961 and 1964 by Daniel Adamson, a former teacher and principal at Saint Benedict School in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. (Adamson died in the mid-1970s while still principal of the school.)

On July 6, a jury awarded a $6.4 million judgment against the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate for ignoring the student’s sex-abuse complaints.

Carbaugh said it was seeing the news stories about Sun that made her realize the damage he’d done to her, and prompted her to begin addressing it.

“He looked hunched over, stooped, hard of hearing and I am terrified of him,” she said. “I shouldn’t be. I should not be afraid of that man any longer.”

Carbaugh, a middle-school math and religion teacher, says her lawsuit is not about making money, though it does seek unspecified monetary damages and attorney fees.

“Never has that been a part of this at all,” she said. “I want to be told that I am believed. That people understand and know that I am telling the truth about the essence of what he did.”

The two families were neighbors in Fife Heights, an unincorporated section of Pierce County, in the 1960s, she said. Sun, with his wife and three children, had horses and a garage full of cars and tools, and taught the neighborhood kids how to use them, she said in an interview.

She said Sun used his horses to get time alone with her, telling her she had to help feed and water them at night in order to ride them during the day. He would come to her kitchen door to get her after dinner and head to the barn, where he molested her, she said.

“I know that I am not that 14-year-old kid anymore, but it’s like being that kid again, who couldn’t speak for herself and make it stop,” she said.

Eventually her mother, Margaret Carbaugh, discovered the alleged abuse and went to police, but charges were never filed.

“It was the day and age, the atmosphere and the culture that existed,” Kathy Carbaugh said. “You needed to be hospitalized, to have visual wounds and injuries for someone to say, ‘OK, maybe.’ “

Still, she told neighbors what her daughter said happened, and in 1970, Sun and his then-wife, Alice, sued the Carbaughs, alleging defamation.

In court papers, Sun stated that “all of said statements were false, malicious and defamatory,” caused “extreme humiliation and severe emotional upsets and anxieties.” Sun said he felt that his job as a Boeing engineer “is in extreme jeopardy and that his employment may be terminated.”

He sought $1 million in damages. The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Sun couldn’t file another case with the same claim.

Nicole Brodeur: 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.