Sexual-bias lawsuit settled in Montgomery

August 13, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ROCKVILLE -- A sexual discrimination lawsuit that pitted a senior Montgomery County prosecutor against her boss and included steamy love poems as evidence was settled yesterday for $320,000.

The suit by Teresa Whalen, now in private practice in Montgomery County, against former State's Attorney Robert Dean ends more than two years of embarrassing disclosures that began shortly after he fired her.

The settlement also ends legal action against Dean's former deputy, I. Matthew Campbell, now the deputy state's attorney in Howard County.

Douglas Gansler, who defeated Dean last fall for the top prosecutor's job, negotiated the settlement and said the deal avoided disrupting his office with "a knock-down, drag-out fight between two people who don't even work here anymore."

But Dean issued a blistering statement, calling the settlement "bizarre" and an "unprecedented giveaway arrangement."

Dean, an assistant state's attorney in Prince George's County, said Whalen's lawsuit was politically motivated, and "one can only speculate" why Gansler agreed to the settlement.

Whalen filed suit in May 1998, one year after Dean fired her for insubordination. He said she had failed to cooperate with a police investigation into how her taped conversation with a former boyfriend about her relationship with Dean ended up on the voice mail of a dozen of her colleagues.

Whalen said she was fired because she ended the relationship with Dean. Her lawyer handed out love poems to reporters that Whalen said Dean had written to her.

She said Dean and Campbell tried to force her to sign a statement declaring that she was not a victim of sexual discrimination and that she was leaving the office because of "stress."

Gansler dismissed Dean's claims that Whalen's suit and the settlement were politically motivated.

"If that's true, I would have reinstated her and given her back wages, which was what she wanted from Day 1," he said.

Continuing the suit would have meant getting depositions from current and former employees, some of whom are now judges in the county, he said.

"The most disruptive thing would have been litigation," Gansler said. "It would have put our office in disarray for one year, maybe two."

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