Five former top Alexandria officials, including one-time city manager Douglas Harman, denied in federal court yesterday that they conspired to cover up a 1983 incident of sexual harassment against two female city employees, and they defended their handling of the women's complaints.
Harman, who left Alexandria in 1985 amid controversy over the police department's handling of a drug investigation, also denied allegations by two other former city employees that he made sexual advances to them. Harman is now city manager in Fort Worth.
The officials' testimony came on the second day of the trial in a bitterly contested lawsuit in which two former city employees have accused the City of Alexandria and the five former officials of covering up the 1983 incident, involving former city planning director Engin Artemel, and of fostering a "continuing practice of discrimination against female employees" of the city.
The plaintiffs, Patricia Enneking and Elizabeth McKenna, who charge that their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection were violated, are seeking unspecified monetary damages for emotional distress and loss of pay, as well as a court order barring the defendants from practicing sexual harassment in the future.
The suit revisits events that took place from 1983 to 1985 during the tenures of the five officials, who in addition to Harman and Artemel are former personnel director Robert W. Burnett, former deputy city manager Bradford S. Hammer and former human rights adminstrator Stephen Levinson. Much of the testimony has sought to impugn the credibility and truthfulness of those on the other side of the case.
At the heart of the suit is disagreement over the officials' handling of complaints against Artemel, Harman and Hammer that were filed by Enneking and McKenna after the 1983 incident at a municipal convention in Williamsburg.
The two women said Artemel harassed them by dancing in an objectionable manner and making suggestive comments. They alleged that Hammer and Harman were told that Artemel was acting "out of line" but did nothing to stop him, joked about his behavior and participated in a toast to his activities.
Burnett testified that he punished Artemel with a permanent reprimand, mandatory counseling and a denial of an $800 annual pay increase. According to evidence, Artemel was denied $800 in a meritorious-pay review, but he received a $2,500-a-year grade increase in December 1983.
Burnett said he did not find enough evidence to support McKenna's claims that Hammer and Harman were aware of Artemel's behavior that night and that they failed to intervene.
Levinson testified that the two women agreed to Burnett's investigation and did not file a formal complaint with his Human Rights Office. Enneking testified that she did so.
Seeking to show that officials had attempted to keep the incident quiet, attorneys for McKenna and Enneking introduced a memo from Burnett to Harman noting that, as a confidential personnel action, Burnett's investigation could "avoid the possibility" of a civil rights hearing.
Harman denied allegations by Carol Becker, a former director of the city's Office on Women, and another former city employee, Mary DeCampli, that he had made sexual advances to them.