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2 FBI Agents File Suit Charging Sexual Harassment by Supervisor : Court: Women say senior officials retaliated against them after they complained about their superior in Santa Ana office.

March 12, 1994|DAVAN MAHARAJ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Two women FBI agents on Friday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that they were fondled and taunted by a supervisor who heads the bureau's white-collar crime unit in Orange County.

The lawsuit by veteran agents Boni Carr Alduenda, 40, and Heather Power-Anderson, 38, is believed to be the first sexual harassment case filed by women still working as agents. It follows recent discrimination lawsuits against the bureau by gays and minorities.

Carr Alduenda and Power-Anderson allege that they were retaliated against by senior FBI officials and targeted for misconduct investigations after they first complained in 1992.

Supervising Agent John Carpenter, accused of harassing both women, said Friday that he was not aware of the lawsuit. He acknowledged an internal investigation into the harassment complaints filed against him, but declined to elaborate.

"I deny everything," Carpenter said.

FBI officials in Washington, Los Angeles and Santa Ana declined to comment, saying they do not discuss pending litigation. Bill Carter, a bureau spokesman in Washington, said the FBI "simply does not tolerate sexual harassment."

Power-Anderson has been a special agent since 1984, Carr Alduenda since 1988. They are assigned to the bureau's 65-agent Santa Ana field office, where Carpenter is a supervisor.

Their lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana names Atty. Gen. Janet Reno as the defendant. The agents allege that Carpenter taunted them at work, grabbing them and making lewd remarks for several months in 1992.

"There is a cruel irony that the department of the U.S. government vested with enforcing the civil rights of our citizens would officially sanction retaliation against its female agents in an effort to discourage these women from exercising their own rights," said Christopher B. Mears, an Irvine lawyer representing the agents.

Power-Anderson said Carpenter massaged her shoulders, and in one incident, kissed her at the back of the neck while she was sitting at her desk. Another time, she alleged, Carpenter tore her dress when he attempted to forcibly place his hand on her upper thigh.

Carr Alduenda alleged that Carpenter constantly grabbed her and made lewd remarks, including commenting about the size of her breasts.

In the lawsuit, she said that when she returned from maternity leave in September, 1992, Carpenter said to her: "Maternity has been good to you. Your breasts are really big. Are you breast-feeding? I wish I was your baby."

Carpenter has been an FBI agent for more than 20 years, according to the lawsuit. His wife, Cathy, also is an agent in a white-collar crimes unit in the Santa Ana office, though not in her husband's squad.

Some of the alleged harassment occurred in the presence of other agents and employees, the women said.

According to the lawsuit, Carpenter once sneaked up behind Power-Anderson and placed his hands on her buttocks in the presence of Supervising Agent Linus Danilevicius and two other employees. She said Danilevicius didn't respond, but remarked, "It's five o'clock, time to go."

Carpenter allegedly replied, "Goddammit Linus, why did you tell her what time it is? If she didn't know she would have stayed."

The women said the harassment began in early 1992 and continued into October of that year, when they complained to James Donckels, agent-in-charge of the Santa Ana office.

Carpenter stopped sexually harassing them after they complained to Donckels, but then a new round of recriminations began, the women said in the lawsuit. The day after they talked to Donckels, the agents said, Carpenter wrote memos criticizing their work.

Donckels told Power-Anderson that he could not remove her from Carpenter's squad and that he could not tell her boss to stop his conduct, the lawsuit alleges. Donckels was out of his office Friday afternoon, but a department spokesman declined to comment on his behalf.

In the lawsuit, Power-Anderson and Carr Alduenda said Donckels discouraged them from filing discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but advised them to put their complaints in writing so that he could forward them to the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal FBI unit that investigates administrative misconduct.

"Sexual harassment is not discrimination," the lawsuit quotes Donckels as saying. "It's administrative misconduct, so OPR takes care of it."

But Mears, the women's lawyer, said Donckels had a responsibility to send the complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, not the internal unit.

"The only conceivable reason why this (was investigated) internally was to launch a retaliatory investigation designed to intimidate and embarrass these agents into dropping their complaints," Mears said. "The very nature of these gestures are so clearly sexual harassment, it's the only way that Donckels could have interpreted them."

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