A Harford circuit judge has dismissed a $3 million sexual harassment lawsuit against the Aberdeen chief of police, saying that the chief's former secretary, who filed it, "openly participated in office banter of a sexual nature" for more than three years and never complained to anyone about it.
Judge Cypert O. Whitfill said in a 37-page memorandum that plaintiff Vickie L. Horne's "own admissions in this case bar her claims against the defendant," Chief John R. "Jack" Jolley.
Mrs. Horne was employed by the city of Aberdeen and requested a transfer to work under Chief Jolley as an executive secretary. Her transfer was granted in November 1989, court documents show.
In October 1993, Mrs. Horne filed suit against the chief and the city of Aberdeen, alleging that Chief Jolley "continuously" subjected her to sexually suggestive and lewd comments during the time she worked for him.
Mrs. Horne's suit contended, for example, that the chief told her to wear a "wet T-shirt" to a golf outing to distract other players.
Judge Whitfill heard testimony in the case in June and said in his written opinion, released last week, that the Aberdeen woman's conduct in the workplace "demonstrated that she welcomed the comments about which she now complains."
The plaintiff admitted in her deposition testimony that "Chief Jolley did not intend to harm her by his comments," Judge Whitfill said.
That testimony "undermined Mrs. Horne's claims of intentional discrimination," the judge said.
In evaluating each of eight specific complaints alleged by the plaintiff, Judge Whitfill pointed out that Mrs. Horne had said Chief Jolley never intended to hurt her when he made the comments.
Mrs. Horne did not complain to co-workers or city officials about Chief Jolley's conduct until she filed the lawsuit, the judge said.
Judge Whitfill cited Mrs. Horne's statements that her sister-in-law also had been sexually harassed by Chief Jolley but that no affidavit or other evidence ever was presented to substantiate that claim.
In deciding whether Mrs. Horne's allegation that the workplace environment was hostile, Judge Whitfill said that the alleged harassment was neither frequent nor severe.
Judging from Mrs. Horne's consistently receiving very good, or outstanding performance ratings from Chief Jolley during the years at issue, the judge said, there was no evidence that alleged conduct interfered with her work performance.
The plaintiff's complaint against the city was similarly dismissed. Judge Whitfill said evidence showed that Aberdeen officials were never made aware of any complaint against the police chief until the day after Mrs. Horne filed the lawsuit.