A policewoman who has sued the city for sexual discrimination has taken a leave of absence, citing stress from harassment from co-workers.
Marcia Christensen was fired in late 1996 after she failed to qualify on a marksmanship test with the handgun the department had adopted.The lone female officer in Washington Terrace, Christensen was later reinstated by then-Mayor Brad Dee after public outcry and allowed to certify with a handgun with a smaller grip.
However, she still filed a lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination. The continuing controversy - along with other issues - were seized upon by Richard Jackson to oust Dee from the mayor's office last fall.
Christensen deferred any comment on her six-week leave of absence, which began March 5, to her union representative.
"It's just a continuing pattern of harassment that's been going on for years," said Patty Collins of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The latest examples, she said, include the fact Christensen is second in seniority at the police department but is assigned to the graveyard shift.
Collins said that Christensen also had been denied vacation time and received a letter of reprimand from Chief Merv Taylor over alleged critical remarks about the department and discussing confidential departmental operations.
Collins said the Jan. 28 letter did not name Christensen's accuser and did not even detail what she was supposed to have said. Chris-ten-sen has taken the letter through the city's grievance process and Jackson ordered Taylor on March 9 to withdraw the letter.
"To date, that order by the mayor has been ignored," Collins said.
She also said city officials have only approved two weeks of leave, instead of the six requested upon advice of Christensen's counseling therapist. She started seeing the therapist shortly after her firing in 1996.
Collins said Christensen is suffering migraine headaches and other medical problems that have required her to start seeing a specialist in internal medicine.
However, City Manager Pearce Shelton said Taylor has withdrawn the letter and the six-week leave of absence has now been approved. He denied any mistreatment of Christensen.
Her U.S. District Court lawsuit filed in May 1997 seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against Dee, Taylor, Shelton and the city and police department of Washington Terrace.
It claims Christensen has been victimized by a climate of hostility and that retaliation has continued since her reinstatement in January 1997, including silent treatment by other officers, refusal to issue her needed equipment and supplies and assignment to menial tasks.
"Most importantly, other members of the department put Christensen into potentially life-threatening situations by refusing to respond to her requests for backup," the suit states, "or, in other circumstances, by providing unnecessary backup and on certain occasions appearing at the incident scene and refusing to allow Christensen to perform any job duties."