A former server at the Old South Country Club in Anne Arundel County has sued the club and three of its members, all prominent in county politics, alleging a pattern of groping and leering that ended only when she resigned.
Erin Zollars, 26, said she was harassed "by numerous male members" of the private golf club in Lothian, "especially when she went up stairs," to the point that she was no longer comfortable wearing a skirt to work, according to a complaint filed in December in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.
The lawsuit singles out three prominent Old South members: Frederick Schram, a high-ranking purchasing official in the government of County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) who once served as her chief of staff; William Chaney, an Anne Arundel millionaire and Civil War buff; and Nick Manis, a well-known lobbyist.
Old South is among the most prestigious clubs in the region; its membership list reads like a Who's Who of powerful and well-connected names in and around the state capital.
Chaney, one of the club's founders, called the accusations "ridiculous."
"I consider myself a southern gentleman. I don't do things like that," he said. An attorney for Chaney and Schram denied the allegations. Neither Manis nor his attorney, Joseph Devlin, could be reached yesterday, but they denied the allegations in court filings.
Zollars worked at Old South from April 2001 to May 2004, according to the 20-page complaint. Zollars and her attorney, Brian Markovitz, declined to comment on the matter.
In the lawsuit, Zollars alleges that she was "repeatedly physically assaulted and battered" by Chaney, whose alleged misconduct included "grabbing her legs and behind, as well as one time placing his hand up under her skirt.''
Chaney, reached at his Lothian home, said he suspects that he was named in the suit because "one, I'm one of the founders, and two, they think I have deep pockets."
Chaney is known for a 24-foot statue of Robert E. Lee he erected near the historic site of the Battle of Antietam. The fate of the statue became a matter of speculation recently after the National Park Service acquired the land.
Zollars's lawsuit alleges that Schram pinched her legs and behind while in a state of intoxication and asked her "what color and type of underwear she was wearing" and whether her boyfriend was satisfying her.
Annapolis lawyer Jonathan Kagan, who is representing Chaney and Schram, said the behavior the lawsuit describes "just didn't happen."
Kagan said "there are just no facts" to support the allegations of assault and battery.
An attorney for the club was out of town yesterday and did not return a call seeking comment.
Owens declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
The lawsuit also states that Manis on one occasion "smacked Ms. Zollars so hard on her behind that other employees heard it."
The incident prompted Zollars to resign three days later, on May 25, 2004, according to the lawsuit.
Club management responded with a letter to Zollars on May 31, apologizing for the incident and noting that Manis "has been dealt with and more importantly, the Club will not tolerate incidents such as this," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks $1.5 million in damages on six counts, ranging from assault and battery to emotional distress and negligence on the part of the club.
The case has not been assigned a trial date.