By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Hernandez quit county employ shortly afterward and never pursued any official action against Hector Gutierrez. But also during May 1986, the county manager's office reported receiving three anonymous phone calls claiming sexual harassment on the part of Gutierrez, who was then a HUD housing management officer. The calls - from three different women who accused Gutierrez of promising apartments based on sexual favors and of sexually harassing apartment residents - were judged by then-HUD Director Melvin Adams to be spurious, a rumor campaign intended to discredit Gutierrez. Nonetheless, a record of the calls was placed in Gutierrez's personnel file.
In May 1989, a clerk typist named Maria Cristina De Armas filed sexual harassment charges against Gutierrez after only two months on the job. In her complaint to the federal EEOC, De Armas alleged that Gutierrez had asked her out for dinner and drinks, and continued to ask despite her refusal. Fired for poor performance at work three days after she filed her complaint, nine months later she negotiated a settlement, which changed the status of her termination to a resignation, secured a promise that no retaliatory action would be taken against her for filing, and prematurely ended the EEOC investigation. Honoring the terms of her agreement, she declines to discuss the charge today. As a result of the settlement, there is no record of the charge in Gutierrez's personnel file.
Hector Gutierrez arrives 35 minutes late for an 8:00 a.m. interview, apologetic for his tardiness. The HUD South Regional Offices at 450 SW Fifth Street, preparing for a move to Naranja, are in a state of transition, with boxed files stacked in corners and walls stripped bare. Gutierrez, 40, is ruddy-faced, with thinning hair and a mustache that curls down around the sides of his mouth.
Before the interview begins, he asks if his secretary can sit in on the meeting and take notes - for accuracy's sake, should a discrepancy later arise. This insistence upon exactness characterizes Gutierrez's employment record; throughout the conversation, he refers repeatedly to his vision of himself as a strict administrator who plays by the rules impartially and invariably. "I think I do my job outstanding," he says. "I treat my employees all the same. I go by the book and I expect to be treated by the book."
Friendly and willing to discuss in detail all the charges and allegations that have been brought against him - all of which he denies unequivocally - Gutierrez begins by addressing the claims of Rosalind De Pardee. He speaks highly of her and appears confused by her charges. "She was always very courteous, very friendly," he recalls. "At the last Christmas party she gave me a gift, a little cup that says `I love you.'"
"I don't think the mug said that," responds De Pardee. "I don't remember exactly. But I gave other administrators identical mugs as well. I gave gifts to my secretary and received gifts."
But the mug, Gutierrez explains, is a symbol, indicative of the general good will and professionalism that characterized their interaction. "Ms. De Pardee always conducted herself very ladylike," he says. "At no point did she express problems with me." But allegations of his misconduct date back all the way to 1986. Nearly four years before her dismissal, De Pardee had complained about Gutierrez in her meeting with Mary Keller, a meeting Keller remembers well. "That is a fact, yes, Rosalind did come to see me in 1986 to tell me about her belief that Hector Gutierrez was sexually harassing her," Keller says now, confirming that she advised De Pardee to continue trying to consult with Eugene Smith about the matter. Further, former HUD employee Louise Hernandez witnessed at least one 1986 encounter between Gutierrez and De Pardee. Gutierrez disputes all incidents mentioned by Hernandez; he does not even remember her, he says.
Regarding Reina Gomez, Gutierrez is even more brief. Not only are her allegations slanderous and false, he claims, but his previously cordial relationship with Gomez was damaged irreparably as a result of a March 1990 incident. "At that time," he says, "Reina Gomez emphatically stressed to my wife that I was having affairs with female employees," he says. "These are things of such a personal and emphatic nature that they are unbelievable. Some of the comments she made to my wife were the first I had heard of these rumors about myself." After that March incident (which Gomez says never happened), Gutierrez contends that he refused to speak with her. "I did not accept calls from Reina Gomez at my house. I did not see her at work. Sunday, May 6, she returned a call concerning an emergency at Jack Orr Plaza. That was the last time I have spoken with Reina Gomez. The only harassment that has occurred between us has been Gomez harassing my wife." The late-night calls Gomez alleges, he says, occurred less frequently than she claims, and involved only business.
Gutierrez professes not to know why both De Pardee and Gomez would lie about his behavior, suggesting that the claims are the self-serving slander of disgruntled employees. "I consider myself a tough administrator, very committed and dedicated to the department," he says. "I strictly enforce policies and procedures. I have probably been the administrator most involved, directly and indirectly, in employee disciplinary actions, and of course that will make some people irritated at me.