Border Wars

Nearly a dozen people in the local INS office have filed sexual-harassment complaints against the agency

Jack Garofano is likely familiar with the process and fallout from sexual harassment. Before transferring to the INS inspections department at Miami International Airport in 1996, he held a management position at Pearson International Airport in Toronto for thirteen years. In 1992 Playboy model Lisa Heughan claims three INS workers (Garofano was notamong them) at Pearson attempted to extort a private strip show. Heughan says the men detained her for twelve hours while they looked through copies of magazines that were in her briefcase, made references to her breasts, and told her that if she wanted to cross the border, she would have to remove her clothes. In the end INS disciplined the trio, according to the Toronto Star. Two anonymous union officials and three attorneys say Garofano's transfer to Miami was indirectly related to the scandal. Garofano's lawyer asserts his client had no involvement in the incident.

From the moment Garofano reported for duty as assistant district director for inspections at MIA, Willoughby alleges he barraged her with sexual advances and innuendo. Willoughby contends she had never before experienced such treatment and that she made it clear his affections were unwelcome. Still, according to her complaint, on several occasions Garofano suggested that submission to his advances was a condition of employment.

In the summer of 1996, Willoughby says Garofano unpacked a "blooper file," which held photocopies of immigration documents, such as passports, containing names that could be related to sex by sound or meaning. The file also held pornographic cartoons and obscene sketches of women. Other INS employees, including some top officials, supplied documents for Garofano's collection, Willoughby claims. Eventually she says the agency's Office of the Inspector General confiscated the file.

The complaint also includes the following claims: Garofano said he was in love with Willoughby and wanted to marry her. He called Willoughby at home to ask if she was in bed and what she was wearing. Once he told her he was horny and that he dreamed of having sex with her. At work he regularly referred to her as "toots," "Lisa babe," and "sweet cheeks."

At first Willoughby contends she was reluctant to report the abuse. She feared such action could damage her career and that her mother, brother, and boyfriend, all of whom worked for the service, would bear the brunt of the her superiors' response if she came forward. Finally Willoughby asserts Garofano treated other women inappropriately. She refers to an incident in which he had been stuck with a female employee in an elevator. After Garofano and the woman exited the car, he allegedly said: "If we were stuck in there much longer, it would have gotten messy." Referring to the complaints by Willoughby and the others, attorney Roxanne Joffe comments: "[These women] were touched, spoken to in a demeaning way, stared at, and glared at."

On April 15, 1998, Willoughby says she reported Garofano's actions to deputy district director John Bulger. Then, she asserts, she was stripped of her duties and reassigned. "I literally sat at an empty desk from the time I reported it to the time I was transferred to another department in August," Willoughby recalls. "My career is washed up because of this. I had to get away from him. I didn't want to leave my job, but I had to because of him."

In January INS district director Robert Wallis posted a memo announcing Garofano's move from inspections to a temporary position overseeing construction at the INS office in West Palm Beach. Garofano responded to the transfer by filing an appeal with a board that reviews personnel moves, according to attorney Loren Granoff. "We feel that at the end of the day, he will be fully exonerated based upon evidence, not innuendo," he maintains.

Garofano is not the only high-ranking INS official accused of sexual harassment. A female employee who declines to give her name says she has filed a claim against Paul Sands, a supervisory immigration inspector. The woman contends Sands forced her to wear her hair up as a condition of employment. "Females here are violated in every way," notes the woman. "I had a female inspector tell me that Paul Sands came up to her and said, 'You look great with make-up on. You look sexy.' A cleaning lady at MIA came crying to me one day, saying Sands had invited her to have sex with him."

There also is a sexual-harassment complaint against Dora Jean Sanchez, who once held an important position with the INS office at MIA, according to Richard Caldwell, a Miami attorney. Caldwell alleges Sanchez hung a whip on her office wall and sometimes remarked that she'd use it to lash employees into shape. "That's a lie," she comments. Sanchez was transferred to Dallas almost two years ago, Caldwell says. The lawyer also claims he is handling two unrelated sexual-harassment cases against the agency but refuses to give details.

Then there's Rafael Guzman, an inspector who worked for Garofano. At least four sexual-harassment complaints have been filed against him, say two union officials and three INS employees interviewed by New Times. Back in August 1998, William Congleton, a criminal investigator from INS's Office of Internal Audit, flew to Miami with his supervisor, Susan Armstrong. The investigators spoke with about 40 witnesses concerning the four EEO complaints involving Guzman.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...