Ex-guard at Aberdeen settles suit Army acknowledged that civilian was sexually harassed

She accepts $60,000

Superiors knew of misconduct, court records show

November 26, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

A former civilian guard at Aberdeen Proving Ground who sued the Army after being sexually harassed on the job has settled her case for $60,000, a lawyer for the Army said yesterday.

Cecelia Marie Port's case -- which included complaints of lewd remarks and groping -- had been scheduled to go to trial yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. But the 43-year-old Abingdon resident agreed Friday to the settlement, lawyers in the case said.

The Army has acknowledged that Port was sexually harassed in 1992 and 1993 while working as a security guard at the proving ground, and that her superiors knew of the harassment but failed to stop it, court records show.

The settlement comes amid a far-reaching investigation into sexual misconduct throughout the military. The Army has suspended 20 trainers at Aberdeen Proving Ground for alleged misconduct that ranges from harassment to rape -- charges that have triggered a broader investigation.

Last night, an Aberdeen spokesman confirmed that the civilian deputy to the garrison commander is under investigation for allegedly making "unprofessional comments."

John F. Roth Jr., 50, of Churchville in Harford County is the deputy to Col. Roslyn Glantz, who as garrison commander oversees 1,400 civilian and 250 military employees responsible for daily operation of base facilities, such as building and grounds maintenance, said the spokesman, John Yaquiant.

Yaquiant declined to describe the nature of the alleged comments or to say when or to whom they were made, though he said the "administrative investigation" has nothing to do with the larger sexual misconduct probe at Aberdeen. He said an investigative officer would conduct interviews and report his findings to Glantz in about two weeks.

Roth has not been suspended but is at home on a planned vacation, Yaquiant said.

Reached last night, Roth declined to comment on the investigation.

Port's attorney, Bruce Ezrine, said his client sees a link between her case and recent allegations at the post's U.S. Ordnance Center and School.

"She feels badly, in some ways, that her case couldn't have helped prevent what's happening now," Ezrine said. "If the proper procedures were in order, and certain punishments would have been meted out earlier against certain employees, then maybe the present situation at Aberdeen wouldn't be what it is."

But Kaye Allison, chief of civil and financial litigation in the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, saw no real connection between Port's case and recent allegations at Aberdeen Proving Ground: "The only common thread is that it's Aberdeen."

Port, through her husband, declined to comment.

Port complained that male guards refused to allow her to leave her post so she could go to the bathroom, made sexist and lewd remarks toward her and threatened her. She also said she was subjected to groping.

In her complaint, she said male guards repeatedly made lewd comments about masturbation. A fellow guard grabbed her hand and tried to stroke it, and said he wanted to "get naked with [Port] downrange," according to court documents.

Testifying before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Port said the harassment left her depressed and withdrawn, and disrupted her relationship with her family. "I would go into the bedroom and I would just, like, close myself off from [my husband] because I just didn't feel I could have a conversation with him I was so depressed."

In October 1994, the EEOC sided with Port on her complaint, TC finding that she had been sexually harassed and that the Army had retaliated by reassigning her to a trailer.

"The evidence clearly shows that the conduct was so serious and pervasive as to create an intimidating, offensive and hostile work environment," the commission said. Aberdeen officials knew about the harassment and did not do enough to help Port, the commission added.

Allison, commenting on the lawsuit, said, "It wasn't a question of trying the case on liability. That was already admitted."

Allison said the $60,000 settlement covers damages, back pay and attorney's fees for Port.

Port had been seeking $300,000 in damages and back pay. She now works for the Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore, said Ezrine.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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