Diggs' defense: Complaints were narrow

January 24, 1995|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

A lawyer defending Morgan State football coach Ricky Diggs yesterday tried to chip away at the sexual harassment claims of a former athletic department employee by arguing that she had made only a few narrow complaints to school officials.

The former academic coordinator, Elizabeth A. Stearns, also had received several warnings about her performance before being transferred, the lawyer said.

Stearns claims in a federal lawsuit that Diggs sexually harassed her almost from the start of her tenure in August 1991. She claims Diggs and the university demoted her in November 1992 and again in March 1993 in retaliation for her complaints about Diggs' behavior.

Stearns is asking for reinstatement with back pay and wants the university to create a sexual harassment policy and reprimand Diggs.

But her harassment complaints to the university differ from her broad charges now, assistant attorney general Dawna M. Cobb tried to show during a daylong cross-examination.

She also showed written warnings to Stearns from the two athletic directors who supervised her. One memo cited Stearns for not working well with colleagues. In January 1993, she was warned about letting football players borrow her car, a violation of NCAA regulations.

She was transferred out of the athletic department in March 1993 and her contract was not renewed in June 1993.

Stearns, who said she could only find work as a waitress since her termination, remained cool during her third day on the witness stand -- unlike Friday, when she cried twice and raised her voice in anger under questioning by her lawyer.

Stearns' formal complaints in March, July and November 1992 did not mention the sexual propositions and repeated profane comments that she now says Diggs made from September 1991 through November 1992, Cobb said.

For example, her Nov. 10, 1992, internal complaint said Diggs had made "threats" within the previous two weeks.

She made no mention in the complaint or at a later meeting with Diggs and a university official of the coach's frequent harassing comments about her body and clothing. She said Diggs apologized only "flippantly" at the meeting for calling her derogatory names and for other comments.

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