Female officer's lawsuit settled

In harassment case, Police Department called `locker room'

October 04, 2006|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,sun reporter

Howard County has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit by a female police officer for $75,000 after she alleged a hostile "men's locker-room" mentality in the Police Department. All but $8,000 of the settlement covers legal fees.

Susan Ensko, a 17-year veteran of the force, had been seeking $500,000 in damages and attorney fees in the lawsuit, which she filed in 2004. The settlement states that both parties deny liability in the matter and are prohibited from speaking with the press about it.

The settlement was written Sept. 13, one day after G. Wayne Livesay, the former police chief who was named in the suit, was defeated in his bid for a seat on the County Council. Livesay, County Executive James N. Robey and three other high-ranking county officials signed the settlement five days later.

In the suit, Ensko claimed that she was subjected to jokes about off-hours "bull roasts" involving strippers, pornography on work computers and inappropriate remarks, including a suggestion that she take a shower with another female officer. When she complained, Ensko, who is married to another officer, alleged that she encountered indifference and retaliation from supervisors.

In March, a federal judge ruled that there was enough evidence for Ensko's case to move forward, a ruling that Livesay appealed.

The agreement also bars public access to information regarding Ensko's employment and retirement, which were part of the negotiations. Attorneys also were instructed to destroy previously sealed documents, many of which included details of internal affairs investigations.

Ensko's lawsuit was similar to one filed by retired Cpl. Linda Freeman, who won $115,000 in a settlement in 2004. Ensko had testified on Freeman's behalf during an internal affairs investigation into her sexual harassment claims in 2001.

The closure of this case leaves one remaining sexual harassment case involving the Police Department. Officer Edward Thatcher, 31, has been indicted on charges that he exposed himself to a female employee of the county's 911 call center while she took a smoke break from work.

His trial is scheduled for Oct. 16.

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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