The Unwanted Touch

For the charged party in such a complaint to enact a partisan investigation of his own, Affirmative Action investigators insist, jeopardizes the integrity of the system. "We were more than upset with Gutierrez, be he guilty or innocent," says the agency's director, Marcia Saunders. Indeed, in her report Dieguez also noted that Gutierrez's interference may have "created tensions and added rumors in the workplace [and] thus, even tainted or prejudiced testimonies of this office's own investigation."

In a January 1988 evaluation of Hector Gutierrez, Armando Vidal, former HUD assistant director for housing operations noted that "this employee has outstanding writing skills." It is the manner in which Gutierrez chooses to deploy those formidable writing skills that frightens those who have charged him. Gutierrez's method, they say, is one of administrative bullying and manipulation of facts. "Why no one talked about [Gutierrez] is a good question," says Lucy Llorente, whose employment-harassment charge is currently pending with EEOC. "Part of it is the effect he had on jobs. He could write horrors about you and everyone would believe it."

Upon registering a complaint against Gutierrez, his accusers frequently became the subjects of attacks that detailed their own on-the-job offenses. When Cristina De Armas filed her EEOC sexual-harassment charges in May 1989, for instance, Gutierrez promptly fired off a round of memos - with titles such as "Request for Investigation and Proper Action Concerning Malicious Slander" and "Malicious Slander from a Probationary Employee" - to fellow HUD administrators.

Those who have accused Gutierrez do not deny the objective truth of his memorandum campaigns. They hold, however, that he employs his administrative vigilance selectively, trumping up small charges and targeting those employees who have threatened to disclose information regarding his alleged misconduct. People who work at HUD must make "a hundred decisions a day," explains Art Velasquez. "And anyone who wants to look through the record of those decisions and find a way to get you, will get you. Hector takes things out of their context and magnifies."

"What he does," adds Reina Gomez, "is to get rid of you, and then to tell everyone who is left, `Look, she challenged me, and this is what happened to her. And I am still here.'"

Gutierrez stands by his record. He has, he says, been involved in many disciplinary actions, and many of the employees he has disciplined never brought any charges against him. All of his actions, he insists proudly, have been based on strict and valid application of departmental regulations.

Rosalind De Pardee, cautious and methodical, went in confidence to Affirmative Action to file a formal charge against Hector Gutierrez. Reina Gomez, sociable and garrulous, opted for a less formal route. Both roads led to frustration.

On a Saturday morning in May 1990, four days after Affirmative Action released its findings in the De Pardee investigation, Gomez met with Earl Phillips, director of HUD. Phillips, a twenty-year veteran of housing administration who spent time in Newark and Houston before coming to Miami in November 1989, brought with him a reputation for discipline and morale-boosting that the county hoped would set HUD on the road to recovery from its late-Eighties tumult. Greg Byrne, deputy director of HUD, was also present at the meeting.

Gomez says that instead of exposing the serious damage done to the work environment by Gutierrez's alleged sexual misconduct, her concerns were met with some degree of levity. "Mr. Phillips was a little funny, a little sarcastic," she recalls. "I told him, `Listen, it's not just me, it's fifteen years. You have to do something about this guy.'"

Phillips does not dispute the content of the meeting, but the tone, he says, was casual and relaxed, and his level of seriousness should be considered in that context. "We joked. We had a good time. I like Reina. I get along well with her," says Phillips. "But that by no means indicates that I didn't take the meeting seriously. She was alleging that there was sexual harassment and advances toward her. The reason I took the time in the first place is that the charges were very serious ones. That was the first time I had heard anything. The thing there was that for the majority of the stuff, she couldn't give me dates, nor could she tell me any other people. I told her I would pass it on to personnel and that it would be dealt with from there."

Part 4

Six days after the meeting, Reina Gomez was demoted from her site manager position. Within the month, she filed a complaint with EEOC.

The department, Phillips insists, did everything in its power to resolve the issue, adding that if he had heard any more allegations of sexual harassment, he would have redoubled his efforts to root out the truth. But according to the May 1 date on Affirmative Action's report, news of the Rosalind De Pardee investigation should have reached Phillips before (or, at worst, shortly after) Reina Gomez's May 5 visit. The proximity of the Rosalind De Pardee investigation and the meeting with Reina Gomez - not to mention the anonymous 1986 complaints, the 1989 Cristina De Armas claim, and the persistent intradepartmental rumors - would seem to provide sufficient reason to look into the matter.

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