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Houston Breakthrough 1977-02
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Houston Breakthrough 1977-02 - Page 17. February 1977. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. August 23, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4451/show/4446.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(February 1977). Houston Breakthrough 1977-02 - Page 17. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4451/show/4446

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1977-02 - Page 17, February 1977, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed August 23, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4451/show/4446.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1977-02
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date February 1977
Description Vol. 2 No. 2
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 21 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Page 17
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_525q.jpg
Transcript SEX CASE continued from pagel As to the excuse that everyone in the office talked openly about sex, which only two of the women had confirmed, Van Hightower made this observation in her report: It is the supervisor who is responsible for setting the professional tone of the office and to suggest that the women encouraged him to make crude sexual remarks i r sexual passes at them is in effect implying that he was unable to supervise. To Ann Hill and the other investigatory team, Van Hightower remarked: You noted that [Jeanette Hawthorne's] charges could not be substantiated because there were no witnesses. Rarely are there witnesses to sexual abuse. It does not take place in the middle of the office, but rather behind closed doors as in this case. Civen the amount of evidence against Mr. Neely, it would seem that [Ms. Hawthorne's] statements have more credibility than his. [There] would seem to be more than enough evidence to conclude that Mr. Neely engaged in sexually abusive tactics with the women in the office. Therefore, I strongly recommend his immediate dismissal. Says Kennerson of this series of events, I'm not a troublemaker. I'm not vindictive or out to get anyone's job. But Tom Neely wouldn't stop doing those things and he wouldn't admit them either. I had a responsibility to the women in the office I managed and I wanted to see them treated fairly. I wouldn't have pushed the issue as far as I did if he'd just said, "I'm sorry. I did some things I shouldn't but I won't ever do them again." But as long as he said all of us were lying, I felt like he couldn't be trusted not to keep doing it or to ^tart up again as soon as he thinks he can get away with it. On October 26, after both investigations had occurred, but before the formal reprimand had been delivered to Tom Neely, he sent a letter to Bill Gutierrez, Supervisor of Neighborhood Services for Community Development, discrediting Kennerson as someone who had felt persecuted by her previous supervisor as well, someone whose continued presence on his staff could only hamper his performance, and requested that she be transferred as soon as possible, so that the Third Ward Neighborhood Service Center can return to its former productiveness. One day Tom called me into his office and told me very sweetly that if I brought him all the projects I'd been working on, he'd give me something, recalls Kennerson. "Something" turned out to be a letter telling me I was reassigned to the center on Navigation. I was so mad! He was afraid to tell me he'd gotten me transferred, because he figured I wouldn't have turned in my work if I'd known about that. So I found myself at the new center on November 4th and it was ridiculous! It was a Spanish- speaking neighborhood, and I didn't speak any Spanish! And they had me in a job which required me to talk to people who didn't speak any English! That was a temporary assignment; eventually I ended up downtown where I am now. "The attraction of males to females and females to males is a natural sex phenomenon, and it is possible that this attraction plays at least a subtle part in most personal decisions. Such being the case, it would seem wise for the Courts to refrain from delving into these matters short of specific factual allegations describing an employer policy which ... imposes or permits a consistent, as distinguished from isolated, sex-based discrimination on an identifiable employee group." This was the ruling of a U.S. District Court which recently dismissed the case of a woman who charged that she had been fired for resisting her employer's sexual advances. Meanwhile, back at the Third Ward Neighborhood Center, Preacher and Hawthorne found themselves subject to strictly enforced office rules. After the investigation, they reported that Neely docked their paychecks for lateness, refused to excuse absences, and denied them any leeway in performance of their duties. He called us in the office and tried to get us to call Becnel and say we'd take it all back and to forget about the charges, but we wouldn't, Hawthorne remembers. He said, "I've got a wife who's expecting a baby; we don't want no publicity. " So I told him, "You should ve thought about all that before doing those things, Tom. I'm not after publicity — I've got a husband and a family too. But I'll testify if I have to. I'm not going to cancel out. Later he called me and Emily in to ask us to write letters saying he had straightened up, which he had, because the heat was on him. So we said we would at first, but then we decided we wouldn 't. It just would have made us look like we'd been lying before. So then he called Ann Hill and told her I'd been trying to contact her, but I hadn't. Anyway, she called me and said, Jeanette, don't you have something to tell me? How's Tom treating you?" I sa/d, "Tom's been fine, " so she says, "Why don't you just write me a nice little letter saying so. " Oh you know, she put it in her own words, the way she wanted it written and everything, but I never did write it. Dr. Van Hightower was not satisfied with the turn of events. On November 5, she addressed a letter to Mayor Fred Hofheinz in which she made the following statements: Sexual abuse of female employees is a common problem in most places of employment and it is directly linked to our sexually stratified system. Women typically have no place to go with their complaints and as a result, each individual woman victimized in this manner has dealt with her problem alone and in the best way possible to try to preserve both her job and her dignity. I thought that this situation was changing, but if the callous response to these complaints is any indication, the old attitudes still prevail. If Mr. Neely is allowed to continue in his job of Supervisor, we are, in effect, telling the women of the City not to waste their time making such complaints. For them to do so will only damage their careers and subject them to further harassment, intimidation and degradation. Three days later, Van Hightower addressed John Castillo, Director of Community Development: Not one woman but two women have charged Thomas Neely with physical sexual ad vances which, in my mind and the minds of the women involved, bordered on sexual "assaults" rather than "advances. " Yet you say that you have no provable evidence of gross sexual misconduct. Are the words of the women worth nothing? It is no small thing to openly make such charges. Women have learned from generations of experience that they are better off just keeping it to themselves because they usually end up being treated as the offender rather than the offended in such cases. It took great courage to make such charges against a man and a supervisor. You admit that Thomas Neely is guilty of sexual misconduct, ind for good reason. Every In response to a portion of Dr. Van Hightower's memo of November 5, 1976, to you, Ms. Kennerson has been transferred from the Third Ward Office only because she requested a transfer and stated that she found the atmosphere at the Third Ward Office unbearable. In fact, Neely requested her transfer on October 26 and Kennerson denies requesting a transfer herself. Van Hightower's rebuttal came in a letter to Hofheinz on November 16: In his defense of Tom Neely, Mr. Castillo has attacked the credibility of the women who spoke up. {I am familiar with this technique because it is the same one used against rape victims). All of the women, Castillo claims, with the notable exceptions of [those two who no longer worked there] had motives to be upset with Tom Neely. I have never heard of any employee who did not, on some occasion, have reason to be upset with their employers. One could also say the same thing about husbands and wives or parents and children. But to further assume that the women in the office would maliciously conspire to harm the /'Everyone talked office — from the about sex in the men on down/ person in the entire Third Ward Neighborhood Service Center staff either charged or verified such misconduct. Even so, you give no credence that Neely attempted to follow through on his expressed thoughts. Your response has been a "slap on the wrist" to Neely and transfers to the women, the victims of the offense. Castillo responded to Van Hightower's challenge with a letter addressed to Mayor Hofheinz on November 11. He reiterated his satisfaction with his own department's findings and expressed his mistrust of the complainants: We found it questionable that all complaints against Tom Neely were written on the same day and were reported at the same time. It is unclear why Castillo questioned the fact that the complainants filed their written statements on the day that Ann Hill requested them. Castillo continued to attack the women's credibility: The investigation team and I believe that the matter was never as serious as Dr. Van Hightower makes it appear. Our general consensus is that the thrust of the complaints was Mr. Neely's vulgarism and "sexy" conversations. This led us to question the nature of the motives and credibility of the complainants charging sexual physical abuse. Specifically, Ms. Kennerson was not hired as a Housing Counselor as she had hoped, Ms. [Hawthorne] was about to be terminated from her temporary assignments, and Ms. Preacher was about to have her probationary period extended. They all have a motive to be upset with Mr. Neely. man in this way is to imply that they are incredibly vindictive and indicates a certain amount of misogyny on Castillo's part. Believe me, this whole experience has been no picnic for the women involved. Each of the women had something to say about Castillo's reasons for mistrusting her credibility: Kennerson: Why would I take it out on Tom when I didn't get the Housing Counselor job? He didn't decide whether I got it. And I never did apply for a transfer. In fact, I told Tom after the investigation that I could work with him just fine, even if we weren't the best of friends, just as long as he behaved himself. Hawthorne: / came in as a temporary employee from the start, to help out while Emily was on leave. So why would telling lies about Tom Neely help me stay there longer? Preacher: My probationary period was extended because Tom turned in an evaluation while I was away on maternity leave that said I was poor in every single category. It was so ridiculously bad that Ann Hill sent it back. It turned out he was submitting rough drafts as examples of my finished work, to prove I was messy. But Community Development figured out what he was doing and refused to put that evaluation in my file. That may show that I had a reason to be upset with Tom Neely, but it also shows that he was a poor supervisor and that Community Development already had reasons to doubt his word. " In his November 11 memo, Castillo proposed evaluating Neely's behavior for 30 days before contemplating further action. Van Hightower suggested that it was naive to assume that Neely would behave in anything but an exemplary manner during a period when he knew he was being watched. Since November, the issue has been dropped. Preacher and Hawthorne both have new jobs. John Castillo's department considers the case closed. The people to whom Van Hightower appealed to reconsider the evidence, notably Dr. Hortense Dixon, the mayor's Executive Assistant in charge of Community Development, and the Mayor, have not responded. Freelance reporter Jim Hig- gins interviewed Tom Neely while researching a story on Community Development and asked him about the charges of sexual misconduct. Neely denied them, saying, Everyone talked about sex in the office — from the men on down. Neely refused to make a statement for Breakthrough. He referred to the situation in his office as his "personal business." Ann Hill stated that Community Development considered the case to be closed. Repeated attempts to reach Jackie Petteway, Hortense Dixon and Fred Hofheinz were all unsuccessful. Says Jeanette Hawthorne: / understand that Tom's a man with a family to support, so it would be hard on him to get fired. But he should have been transferred to some place where someone else was over him; he just shouldn't be in a supervisory position. He should be under someone who's watching him all the time. Emily Preacher is less kind: As long as secretaries can be fired coming in to the office a few minutes late, I think men should be fired for treating their secretaries like streetwalkers. Audrey Kennerson is concerned over the impact this incident could have on her future. She has won several awards for outstanding community service in the past. When she quit her previous job with the Mayor's Citizen's Action Center, Fred Hofheinz saw fit to honor her by declaring a city-wide "Audrey Kennerson Day." A previous Community Development supervisor did get irritated with her when she refused to go out on street surveys on foot (for medical reasons) — Tom Neely made much of this disagreement in labeling Kennerson as a habitual troublemaker. However, regardless of whether her old employment record was brilliant or mediocre, Kennerson felt she had a responsibility to speak up for what she thought was right. But now, she says, You'd think I'd been the one who was molesting women, the way I've been dealt with, and hopes that this case will not prove more detrimental to her career than to Neely's. The minute details of Tom Neely's guilt or innocence are not of so much interest here as the fact that one employer — the City of Houston — offers little support to women in their attempts to combat sexual harassment. Page 16 • February 1977 • Houston Breakthrough