Larry Hawkins The Man Who Loved Women

Vietnam left him paralyzed and in constant pain. But his female co-workers -- who have spent the past fifteen years fending off unwanted advances and inappropriate comments -- say his greatest handicaps are from the neck up.

"I'm not a makeup person," Shelly Nudelman told Hill. "I really didn't wear lipstick too much before. I had to start wearing lipstick when I started working in this office. And it got to a point where it was offensive. Like, am I some ugly creature that you won't even look at me if I don't have lipstick on my face?"

Even executive assistant Terry Murphy agreed with the women. "I've heard him tell his mother when she comes in here to put on lipstick," Murphy told Hill during his interview. "I don't get it." Murphy acknowledged that DiFede, Nudelman, and Fernandez all complained to him about the office rule. He can't, however, remember if he discussed it with the commissioner. "I don't recall if I ever specifically challenged him on it," he said. "I thought they were probably right and it was inappropriate."

Today Hawkins argues that the controversy has been blown far out of proportion. He is simply trying to ensure that the women in his office are properly attired and looking their best. (The lipstick rule remains in effect.) It is no different, he said, from requiring men to wear neckties. "Did I expect them to wear lipstick and dress in a professional manner? Yes, I did," Hawkins offered. "Am I too much of a stickler for that? Maybe." He also prohibits women from wearing open-toe shoes. "It's a quirk," he said by way of explanation. "I'm human and I have quirks. It's my office."

Hawkins was accompanied to his interview with investigator Hill by two lawyers, George Yoss and Raul Cantero. Hill asked Hawkins: "Did you throw your bullet on the floor so [Mary DiFede] could bend over and you could look down her blouse?"

"There wasn't anything down her blouse," Hawkins quickly replied. His attorneys began laughing.

"I take that as 'No,'" Hill added as Hawkins's attorneys continued to cackle in the background. "The answer is 'No'?"

"No," Hawkins affirmed. "She's a very small-chested woman. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out."

A few moments later in the interview, Hill asked Hawkins about DiFede's claim that Hawkins called her a "bimbo." Hawkins answered yes, but that he was actually paying DiFede a compliment. He said he told DiFede that when he first hired her, he thought she was a bimbo, but that over the years she had become a good, productive worker.

Hill conceded to Hawkins that he wasn't sure if the bimbo incident would be important to his report. "Since I don't know what a bimbo is," Hill said, "and Webster's really doesn't tell me, I don't know that it's an issue."

In the background, Hawkins's attorneys once again broke into boisterous laughter. Yoss can be heard offering to help Hill find a definition.

"When it comes to bimbos," Hawkins chimed in, "George has all the books."
(For DiFede, Hawkins's "bimbo" comment, made in May 1992, was indeed an issue -- and the final insult. She quit the next day. Hawkins claims she resigned because she didn't receive a promotion.)

Investigator Hill interviewed other members of Hawkins's staff as well. In separate sessions, two of the commissioner's long-time male aides said they had never seen Hawkins act inappropriately. Kevin Stein was emphatic. He told Hill it was "just absurd" to think that Hawkins would make lewd comments about the appearance of his female staff. "This whole sexual harassment thing -- I think it's a bunch of B.S.," Stein declared. "The commissioner can be a difficult person to work for. He demands a lot and, like any tough boss, there have been times where I was so aggravated and frustrated at him, but it's work-related. We've all been under that kind of pressure."

Terry Murphy denied that any of the women complained to him about being sexually harassed by Hawkins. "I've never heard them use the term 'sexual harassment,'" he told Hill. Furthermore, Murphy said, Hawkins isn't the type of person to engage in such conduct.

Hawkins's questionable behavior has not been limited to members of his own staff. Female aides and secretaries for other county commissioners say they, too, have been subjected to his lascivious side. "I actually felt sorry for him," says one former commission aide who still does business with the county and therefore asked that her name not be used here. "He was always trying to paint the picture of himself as a real sex machine. He grossed me out. Being around him was something I despised. He needs help," she adds. "He needs to come to grips with being in a wheelchair."

Another commission aide, who also requested anonymity for fear of retribution by Hawkins, recalls an episode at a commission meeting. Hawkins motioned for her to come over to him. Although it seemed odd that he would summon her -- she didn't work for him, after all -- she went as a courtesy. The aide claims that Hawkins, in a sultry whisper, told her how good she was looking and that it appeared she had lost weight. "Then he began blowing down the front of my dress," she says. "He's such a pig." Hawkins also perpetrated other incidents involving the woman -- comments he would make about her body, dirty jokes he would tell her and other staff members. "It was always something about a penis or it was something about a vagina or it was something about tits," she says. "Larry has a million of them."

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