The Unwanted Touch

Page 5 of 9

"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.

Part 3

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.

"Maybe when someone wants to take action against me, they choose something they have heard mentioned. This department is very unique in the amount of rumors and hearsay," Gutierrez says. "And those sexual harassment allegations are rumors. They are false rumors." Furthermore, he asserts, both women waited until the twilight of their careers with the county to file with EEOC; that convenient timing, the conspicuous silence that preceded the claims, should cast doubt upon the legitimacy of the claims.

While it is true that both Gomez and De Pardee delayed filing until after they were terminated by HUD, sexual harassment experts scoff at the notion that women deserve skeptical treatment if they have postponed action until after they have been fired. "People say that there's some sort of victim syndrome, but I'd say it's more common sense," asserts NOW's Alison Wetherfield. "Women fear, often with good reason, that people who make complaints get a raw deal, that they don't get a decent investigation, that things aren't taken seriously, that making waves could lead to negative job implications. If you ask women, `Would you march straight into a superior's office to complain about sexual harassment?' not all the women would come forward. It takes a very brave person to file at all, and very often people leave a place before they have the courage to file a formal complaint. But you don't see many people falsifying sexual harassment claims to take their revenge on a disliked superior. It simply doesn't happen."

Transferred to Metro-Dade Transit Agency in November of 1986 due to the dissolution of the Tenant Selection Office, Rosalind De Pardee returned to HUD in February 1989 as a site manager. When she applied for the post, Hector Gutierrez was on her panel of interviewers, as he had been in 1986. "I was surprised that he was there," she says. "But I made it a point to make sure everyone knew I would be married in a couple of weeks. I made sure everyone understood that I was engaged. I truly believed that being married, he would leave me alone. I thought that he would respect that."

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Ben Greenman