Ex-officer alleges DNR bias

January 06, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

A former Maryland Natural Resources police officer is charging that the superintendent tried to talk her out of filing sexual harassment complaints and forced her to quit by complaining about her cooperation with a state police probe of the department.

Bo Kali St. Wyatt, 31, said yesterday that Col. Franklin I. Wood, the superintendent, called her into his office three times after she gave a three-hour interview to state police investigators in July 1992. He tried to convince her not to pursue her complaints and questioned her about the direction of the investigation, she said.

"Colonel Wood tried to play on my sympathies in an attempt to manipulate me into trying to get me to back down," she said in an interview. "He was saying how hard it is and how stressful it is on his family."

She also said he later assigned her to a supervisor with whom she had a personality conflict, despite her protests, a move she viewed as retribution.

Ms. St. Wyatt retired on disability because of a stress-related illness in December 1992. She resigned last month as a civilian contractual employee.

State police have been investigating whether high-ranking Department of Natural Resources officers ignored complaints of racial discrimination and sexual harassment in the agency responsible for policing Maryland's waterways and enforcing hunting and fishing regulations.

An 11-page letter that Ms. St. Wyatt sent to Gov. William Donald Schaefer on May 28, 1992, led to the probe, a spokesman for the governor confirmed yesterday.

Ms. St. Wyatt said yesterday that she went public with her complaints about Colonel Wood because she was afraid the state police investigation had bogged down.

DNR officials denied yesterday that Colonel Wood tried to influence the investigation. "I know the superintendent does not agree with those characterizations of the meetings he had with her," said Deputy Secretary John R. Griffin.

Mr. Griffin said that DNR officials are not pleased "that the investigations are taking so long," but that the department wants a thorough job. He said state police investigators told him the probe could be completed in the next two weeks.

"I think it's unfortunate that Bo St. Wyatt felt it necessary to raise her concerns in the form that she has," Mr. Griffin said. "The secretary certainly is available."

Ms. St. Wyatt is not alone in her charges against the department:

* The American Civil Liberties Union is contemplating filing a racial discrimination suit against the department. Deborah Jeon, ACLU lawyer, said 15 to 20 employees have asked for help.

* Sgt. Garland Nixon, vice president of the department's Black Officers Association, said his organization is concerned that racism continues despite the state police probe. "We are concerned that the investigation is kind of dragging on," he said.

* A lawyer for a black officer brought up on 132 departmental charges in October has charged that the department has pursued his client because he sued the state in 1985 to force officials to hire women and minorities.

The Natural Resources Police department has 216 officers, 20 of which are female and 32 of which are minorities.

Ms. St. Wyatt said she was discriminated against from the first day of training in 1986 when she said a supervisor told her, "I don't believe women belong here, but since you're here, I guess I have to train you."

She said such remarks continued throughout her career.

The former officer said at least three white male colleagues made continued sexual references about her and fondled her on several occasions.

Two months before she retired, she said, DNR investigators questioned her about John Gilmer, a black sergeant who was under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, but ignored her complaints about the three white officers.

She said he'd once asked her for a date, but "never said anything to me that was sordid, cruel or lewd or that would turn your stomach."

"What he has done is nothing compared to what these other people have done," she said.

Sergeant Gilmer was acquitted in October of all but 10 of the 132 department charges against him, said David L. Moore, his lawyer. Sergeant Gilmer remains on the force, and his lawyer said there will be no appeals.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.