SALISBURY -- The young student secretary said she knew it would take more than white-out to correct her typing and spelling errors when she worked for lawyer George J. Goldsborough Jr.
When she made mistakes -- and there were many, she acknowledged -- Mr. Goldsborough would put her over his knees and spank her, sometimes bare bottomed.
"I wanted to be a good secretary, and I guess I felt this is what I had to do," the woman said yesterday as an unusual court hearing began, in which the prominent Eastern Shore lawyer faces professional misconduct charges brought by the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.
Mr. Goldsborough has denied formal allegations of sexually abusing his former secretary and two clients. He is expected to testify today that rumors about his conduct were started by former law colleagues who were upset with how he ran his law firms and who wanted a bigger share of the profits.
If a judge finds the charges against the 67-year-old Easton lawyer to be true, the state Court of Appeals could take away his license to practice law, ending a career he began in 1950.
The former secretary and a former client testified that Mr. Goldsborough spanked them. Another former client said he pulled her close to him one day in his office and kissed her on her neck and cheek. (The names of the women involved in the case are not included in this article to protect their identities.)
Called briefly to the witness stand by John C. Broderick, assistant bar counsel for the grievance panel, Mr. Goldsborough denied he had twice spanked a client in 1978. He also said he did not recall if he had kissed another client several times against her will in 1984.
But he did acknowledge that on one occasion in 1986 he spanked his former secretary, then 17. She had been hired when she was a student at Easton High School and was in training for a full-time position with his firm.
Mr. Goldsborough said he had tolerated her inexperience until he no longer had the patience to train her to perform secretarial work.
"I despaired of her attentiveness, of her ability to handle the job," he said.
Short of firing her, he said he asked her what he could do to get her to pay closer attention to her work. It was then, he testified, that the woman described to him how her father used spankings to discipline her.
"I was frustrated enough to have taken her up on her suggestion at that time, to my regret," Mr. Goldsborough said.
His testimony contradicted statements made by his former secretary, who said her boss often spanked her more than once a week, and spanked her bare bottom "more than a handful" of times.
The two sometimes communicated through notes they wrote on draft letters and legal documents, she said, and she wrote once that she would have to stay in his office for an "after-school detention" spanking when she learned she had made a mistake. The woman said she initially looked upon Mr. Goldsborough as a father figure and agreed to be spanked because he told her it was in her best interest.
"It was another means to make me aware of my mistakes," she said.
The woman left the firm, she said, when Mr. Goldsborough's wife learned of the spankings and asked her to quit her job and seek counseling.
Six Talbot County lawyers who once worked with Mr. Goldsborough testified that they broke away from his law firm in 1983, partly because they were disturbed about rumors concerning Mr. Goldsborough's treatment of women.
They said concerns about alleged spankings of two clients forced them to set an office policy, which they said Mr. Goldsborough agreed to, that he should not be in a room alone with a female client or employee unless another office worker was also present.
One of the lawyers, Michael Pullen, said he rejected rumors he heard about his colleague's alleged conduct until he looked inside one of Mr. Goldsborough's desk drawers and saw a publication titled "Spanking and the Single Girl."
The lawyers said they approached Mr. Goldsborough about the rumors, but he denied them and refused to seek treatment.