Harassment Fight Vowed by FBI Chief : Discipline: In an outgrowth of complaints by two Santa Ana female agents, Freeh says sexual misconduct, bias won’t be tolerated. Offending supervisors face firing.
FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, vowing that sexual harassment and discrimination “will not be tolerated” inside the FBI, warned Wednesday that any supervisor found to have harassed a subordinate will probably be fired in the future.
Freeh’s statement came as an outgrowth of a Santa Ana case in which two female FBI agents charged that their male supervisor taunted and fondled them and made lewd remarks.
The supervisor, John Carpenter, a 20-year bureau veteran, was suspended without pay for 45 days, reduced in rank and transferred to the Long Beach office, according to law enforcement sources. Carpenter, who denied the allegations, could not be reached.
Citing privacy concerns, Freeh and other FBI officials declined to specify Carpenter’s punishment but contended that it was in line with the most severe discipline in other comparable cases. The FBI director said the guidelines for future punishment will be harsher.
“I recognize that the severity of punishments I am announcing is a departure from past practice,” Freeh said. “It is, however, fully consistent with my often stated views about the high standards of professional conduct I expect from each FBI employee, whether agent or support, to abide by.”
The Santa Ana case, which led to federal lawsuits in March by the two agents, Heather Power-Anderson and Boni Carr-Alduenda, was settled with unusual speed by the FBI in May. The FBI agreed to pay $192,500 to Power-Anderson and $155,000 to Carr-Alduenda in exchange for their dropping the suit, according to their lawyer, Christopher B. Mears of Irvine.
The settlement agreement also provided that Freeh would issue a public statement acknowledging the agreement and “reiterating the FBI’s commitment to the maintenance of a workplace free from all forms of discrimination and retaliation.”
His statement Wednesday appeared to go further with its declaration that FBI employees who engage in sexual harassment and discrimination “can expect the maximum penalties” and that supervisors who harass subordinates in the future will probably be fired.
On Wednesday, attorney Mears said Freeh’s statement amounts to “full vindication” for his clients.
“The action of these two agents has resulted in an important escalation in the bureau’s stance against sexual harassment and sexual discrimination,” Mears said. “If the women of the bureau had any chance of escaping this environment of discrimination, Freeh needed to take a harsh stance and he did.”
However, Mears said the full measure of Freeh’s new policy directives will not be clear until it is known how the bureau intends to deal with Carpenter.
Mears said Carpenter should be fired for his “reprehensible conduct.”
Power-Anderson of Mission Viejo has been a special agent since 1984, and Carr-Alduenda of Laguna Niguel has been with the bureau since 1988.
Power-Anderson, who was assigned to Carpenter’s squad, said that in one incident he kissed her on the back of the neck while she was sitting at her desk. Another time, she alleged, Carpenter tore her dress when he forced his hand onto her upper thigh.
Carr-Alduenda alleged that Carpenter constantly grabbed her and commented several times about the size of her breasts. In the lawsuit, she said that when she returned from maternity leave in September, 1992, Carpenter remarked: “Maternity has been good to you. Your breasts are really big. Are you breast feeding? I wish I was your baby.”
Mears said that since the settlement of the lawsuit, his clients have settled into an “acceptable coexistence” with fellow agents, occasionally having to deal with “comments and attitudes” from friends of Carpenter.
“Some male agents have a real problem with what happened and they let (the women) know about it. But they are behaving. If we find that they don’t behave, we’ll be back.”
In Santa Ana, FBI spokesman Gary K. Morley said the office would have no comment about Freeh’s statement.
“All you’re gonna get on that deal is in the statement,” said Morley, who also declined to comment on Carpenter’s status.
Mears said Freeh’s directive “should be the policy of all government agencies.”
“Sometimes these big government agencies are slow to keep pace, and the bureau is one of those agencies,” he said.
In March, Freeh issued guidelines on employee conduct that defined standards and promised harsh discipline, including firing, for behavior “fundamentally inconsistent with continued FBI employment.” Examples given in the guidelines, which Freeh described as a “bright line” for employees, included lying under oath, theft, falsification of documents and unauthorized disclosure of information.
The guidelines gave more authority to senior managers to handle allegations of misconduct. They also provided for speedier resolution of disciplinary matters to strengthen the credibility and fairness of the process, which the FBI acknowledged had been a longstanding concern of employees.
Orange County-based FBI Agents Boni Carr-Alduenda and Heather Power-Anderson filed a civil rights lawsuit in March alleging that they were fondled and taunted by Supervising Agent John Carpenter, head of the bureau’s Orange County white-collar crime unit. In May, the FBI agreed to pay nearly $350,000 to settle the suit--$192,500 to Power-Anderson and $155,000 to Carr-Alduenda--in exchange for their dropping the case. As a condition of the settlement, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh stated the bureau’s commitment to maintain a “workplace free from all forms of discrimination and retaliation.” Wednesday, he warned that supervisors who engage in harassment will probably be fired. Power-Anderson and Carr-Alduenda remain with Orange County white-collar crime unit. Carpenter transferred to the Long Beach office. FBI officials declined to reveal his status.