A Fife corrections officer has sued the city, saying she suffered a decade of sexual harassment from a police lieutenant who resigned while being investigated.
Kelly Hamilton’s lawsuit details a series of alleged incidents involving pornographic images, on-duty sex in a woman’s locker room and indecent exposure that started shortly after she was hired in 2000 and continued until late 2010.
A claim filed in connection with the suit seeks $5 million in damages to cover lost wages, emotional distress and humiliation, attorney fees, counseling and medical care. Hamilton contends the harassment drove her to drink and that the city should pay for her substance-abuse treatment.
Her attorney, J. Roderik Stephens, did not return a call for comment. Police Chief Brad Blackburn referred questions to City Manager Dave Zabell, who said he could not comment on pending litigation.
The suit was filed Dec. 31 in Pierce County Superior Court.
In the suit, Hamilton alleges harassment escalated in 2004 during an encounter in the women’s locker room while she and the then-lieutenant were on duty during the night shift.
In her suit, Hamilton said the lieutenant entered the locker room as she was fastening her pants and “began to have sexual intercourse with her, against her will, all the while the plaintiff felt numb and desperately held back her desire to cry.”
The suit identifies the lieutenant as Jeff Westover, a 17-year veteran of the department, but does not name him as a defendant.
Westover resigned in January 2011 after Auburn police were asked to investigate the accusations of misconduct. In their report, Auburn police said Hamilton’s “memory and credibility may be in question” and that evidence suggests the sexual encounter was consensual.
Westover was not charged with any crimes.
The suit says Westover continued to harass Hamilton with suggestive phone calls, exposing himself and masturbating in front of her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him in an empty jury room. She said he sent her cellphone photos of his penis and forced her to look at pornographic images.
Hamilton states she began seeing a psychologist in 2008 because her workplace had become so “toxic.”
In May 2009, she reported the harassment to Lt. Doug Burrus but said he did nothing. Burrus later was suspended for three days without pay after an outside investigation showed he didn’t follow through on Hamilton’s complaints.
Hamilton feared retaliation for complaining about her superior and stayed on the job because she needed money, court records show.
A human resources representative called Hamilton in April 2010 to ask whether she wanted to file sexual harassment charged, but Hamilton feigned no knowledge of the matter because she was in a “state of panic,” according to the suit.Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653