Woman alleges retaliation after being fired by MTA

She accused DNR official of sexual harassment

July 29, 2004|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

A woman whose allegation of sexual harassment led to the resignation of a top state law enforcement official has been fired by the Maryland Transportation Administration, prompting her to accuse the agency of retaliation.

Olga Herrera, 38, said she was demoted from her job as administrative assistant to the MTA deputy administrator shortly after she filed harassment charges against Department of Natural Resources Police Chief Scott Sewell in December.

Sewell resigned after the complaint, becoming the second police agency chief to leave state government under a cloud since the election of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. State police Commissioner Col. Edward T. Norris resigned last year after being indicted on federal charges, to which he pleaded guilty this year.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Thursday's editions incorrectly identified the state agency that formerly employed Olga Herrera. She worked for the Maryland Transit Administration.
The Sun regrets the error.

The original charges against Sewell were dismissed Dec. 19 after Herrera failed to appear in court. Sewell faces trial in Baltimore today) on harassment charges Herrera filed in Baltimore District Court this year.

Sewell said he would plead not guilty to the charges.

Herrera said she skipped the December hearing because Sewell called her and said her appearance could cost him his job.

Herrera said that after her original complaint, agency officials took told her to move out of her office and reassigned her to another department without giving her a desk. She said she was forced to sit in a stairwell or on a supervisor's floor to do the few routine tasks that were assigned to her.

Brandon Hill, the deputy secretary Herrera worked for, was fired Dec. 12, the day after Herrera contacted MTA Police Chief Douglas DeLeaver and requested that Sewell be barred from MTA offices at 6 St. Paul St.

Hill described the treatment of Herrera, who he said was one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the MTA, as "total humiliation."

For more than six months, Herrera said, she was frozen out by MTA supervisors.

Herrera said the agency's failure to assign her a desk led her to complain to the agency's legal department. After that, Herrera said, she was assigned a cubicle but was given little work to do.

Her termination came June 22, Herrera said. She said MTA General Manager John Gowland handed her a letter from Deputy Transportation Secretary Trent Kittleman firing her from her $48,000-a-year job.

The letter gave no explanation, Herrera said. "I was never given a review. Nobody ever came up to me and said I was doing a poor job," she said.

Richard Scher, an MTA spokesman, said he couldn't comment on Herrera's account because of state personnel rules.

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