Posted: Tuesday, March 1st 2005 at 9:55am
Parole board member on trial for sexual harassment
By The Associated Press
State parole board member Gene Walker is on trial for allegedly sexually harassing an assistant then having her transferred because he didn't like her physique.
A similar lawsuit against Walker when he was a state senator was settled out of court. This lawsuit, which seeks at least $1 million, will be decided by a Fulton County jury.
Walker, 68, says he did nothing to offend either woman.
"These allegations are fabricated," Walker's attorney, Bruce Edenfield, told jurors during opening arguments Monday in State Court.
The accuser, Patricia Alexander, 51, went to work as Walker's secretary in 1999, after Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Walker to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Walker claims the complaint is part of a vendetta by Bobby Whitworth and Walker Ray, former adversaries on the parole board.
Walker urged Ray to resign as parole board chairman due to widespread publicity about a criminal probe into allegations that Ray and Whitworth accepted a payoff in exchange for backing proposed state legislation in 2000, Edenfield said.
Ray and Whitworth resigned in June 2002. Last year, Whitworth was sentenced to six months behind bars on a public corruption charge. He remains free on appeal. Ray cooperated with the investigation and wasn't charged.
Ray and Whitworth both are expected to testify for Alexander this week.
Alexander filed her lawsuit in March 2002, but she first filed a complaint with parole board officials in 2000. She claims her lawsuit has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with a hostile work environment.
Her voice quivered Monday as she testified how Walker labeled female employees by their body parts and discussed his fantasies to have sex with her and many others around them.
Alexander said she didn't initially complain because she feared retaliation by her boss.
Walker was elected to the state Senate in 1984 and served until 1992. In 1995, Gov. Zell Miller named him commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Four years later, he joined the parole board where he helps decide when murderers, sex offenders, and other felons are released from prison.
Ray claims that Walker said he had to move Alexander out of his office because she was "disabled, too skinny," her attorney told jurors.
Testimony was scheduled to continue Tuesday before State Court Judge Patsy Porter.
The earlier lawsuit, filed when Walker was a powerful state senator, was settled by the state. That case alleged that he and two legislative colleagues sexually harassed a secretary in the state Senate.
The state paid a $190,000 settlement. The money was paid through a budget category labeled "other operating funds" of the state Senate in 1993.
Associated Categories: State News
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