Schools aide says she was harassed

Official's assistant alleges sexual battery

May 18, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Richard M. Milbourne, acting deputy superintendent of the Baltimore County school system, has been accused of assault and sexual battery in a lawsuit filed by his assistant.

A suit on behalf of Kathleen Vockroth was filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court yesterday by her attorney, Thomas J. Dolina. Dolina has asked that a jury settle the complaint, which lists Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione and the Board of Education as co-defendants.

Vockroth, who worked with Milbourne at school system headquarters in Towson for about a month before she requested leave, is seeking $4.7 million in damages. Neither she nor her attorney was available to comment yesterday.

Milbourne, 61, was an area superintendent in charge of schools in the county's central neighborhoods until about three months ago, when he was chosen by Marchione as acting deputy superintendent, a job that requires him to manage all school system operations, including curriculum, testing and facilities.

Milbourne took over the position shortly after Deputy Superintendent Elfreda W. Massie left the school system for a job with a publishing company outside Chicago.

Milbourne declined to comment on the lawsuit and referred questions to a county attorney who works with the school board.

"Because it is a personnel matter and because it does involve pending litigation, we cannot comment," said Charles A. Herndon, spokesman for the school system, referring to Vockroth's complaint.

"It's inappropriate to comment on it right now."

The school system's personnel policy states that any employee who sexually harasses another employee will receive an oral or written warning, be suspended or be fired.

The lawsuit says Milbourne kissed and groped Vockroth in his office in April, making "lewd and suggestive statements." No criminal charges have been filed.

In the complaint, Vockroth says Marchione and the school board knew that Milbourne had a "proclivity toward communicating with female employees in a sexually offensive and unwelcome manner" and that they failed to stop him from "creating a sexually hostile work environment."

According to the suit, school officials knew that Milbourne had engaged in "previous conduct that would constitute sexual misconduct, assault or battery" before Vockroth accepted the job but failed to warn her.

Instead, they assured Vockroth that employment as Milbourne's assistant would be "beneficial," "safe" and "secure," the suit says.

It was not clear yesterday whether Milbourne had applied to remain deputy superintendent permanently. The job opening has been posted at school system offices.

Joe Hairston, the county's next superintendent, will make the final hiring decision.

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