The struggle over the public's perception of charges that Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden sexually harassed his former secretary continued yesterday on the sidewalks of Towson.
Mr. Hayden's former executive secretary and nine women from the local National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter picketed the county office building, while the object of their wrath sat inside, meeting with constituents.
Mr. Hayden, who is seeking re-election this year, tried to disarm the pickets with a two-page letter and an invitation to meet with him.
The pickets declined the offer.
Laura Newman, president of the local NOW chapter, and Deborah Davis, the chapter's vice president, said yesterday's march was designed to raise public awareness of sexual harassment and encourage women to come forward with their grievances. The group is content to wait for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to judge the charges against Mr. Hayden, Ms. Davis said.
One man, county Zoning Inspector Derek Propolis, a candidate for the presidency of a new county workers' union, joined the demonstration.
Niculina V. "Nicky" Robinson, the former secretary, has said Mr. Hayden made sexual advances while they were in his locked office in September 1992, and has said he hounded her from her job after she rejected him.
She also claims that her husband was fired last year in retribution. Tom Robinson was the county's vehicle fleet administrator. His position was eliminated during the February 1993 layoffs in which 391 other county employees lost their jobs.
Mr. Hayden has denied the charges. Mr. Hayden, worried about the possible negative reaction to his refusal to discuss the charges beyond a three-paragraph written statement issued two weeks ago, said in yesterday's letter that news accounts of the allegations have made people think he doesn't take the issue seriously, when he does.
"While I feel that it is premature and unfair for you to hold a rally based upon unsubstantiated allegations, I do respect your right to express your opinion," he said in the letter. "I am very proud of my professional and personal life. . . . I will defend these claims in the proper setting and I am confident I will be vindicated entirely."
Mr. Hayden also said his position as county executive prevents him from fully defending himself.
Mrs. Robinson, who yesterday held a sign that read, "Tell the Truth, Roger. Everyone Knows How You Abuse Women," said she hopes other women who have worked for Mr. Hayden while he has been county executive will come forth with their own stories of alleged harassment. She said they have not done so because they are afraid they will lose their county jobs.