Metro-East News

Probe of sex-harassment case finds ‘festering’ problem in unit at Scott AFB

The Air Force’s determination to fight workplace sexual harassment is being put to the test because of a case that has roiled the Air Mobility Command at Scott for nearly the past year.

Mary K. Reid, 51, is seeking to regain her job paying more than $100,000 per year as a supervisor in a key AMC civilian unit after being accused by three female employees of inappropriately touching them and making indecent and humiliating comments about their bodies. Reid, through her attorney, denies the allegations and says the accusers have financial motives.

Reid, of O’Fallon, is also seeking to dismiss a misdemeanor charge of battery filed against her by the St. Clair County state’s attorney’s office nearly 10 months ago after one of the alleged victims accused Reid of approaching her at her desk and grabbing “her breasts with her hands,” according to a St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department report on the allegation.

The alleged victim said Reid massaged her breasts “for about five seconds on the outside of her clothes, then Reid walked away,” according to the report. The victim told the investigator she has “been scared to say anything to anyone in fear of losing her job and retaliation from Reid.”

In October, Reid filed a motion in the court case, asking the judge to throw out a statement she gave to the federal government regarding the allegations against her.

That statement “was made involuntarily, as defendant felt she had to give such sworn testimony in order to keep her GS 13 job” at Scott Air Force Base, according to her motion. “That said statement was given after the government refused to allow the defendant to have counsel beside her when she was” being interrogated, “in derogation of the Air Force’s own rules.”

The allegation made by the Analysis Branch employee against Reid was the culmination of years of harassment — a series of publicly-embarrassing incidents that Reid’s supervisor repeatedly ignored, according to the woman.

Two years earlier, the woman said, she was bent over her desk working on paperwork “when Reid walked up behind her, grabbed her buttocks and began massaging” them, according to the sheriff’s report. The woman said Reid announced to the rest of the office, “Oh my god, you’re not wearing any underpants, you’re gross.”

In addition, the three women accusing Reid of harassment and fostering a hostile work environment have filed claims with the 375th Air Mobility Wing’s Equal Opportunity Office, which initiated an investigation and is in the process of making financial settlements with the three alleged victims.

Portia Kayser, the lawyer for the three women, declined to comment for this story.

Reid did not return calls seeking comment.

Eric Rhein, Reid’s Belleville lawyer, denounced the allegations against his client, contending the three alleged victims were motivated by a pursuit of money.

Reid was not charged with sexual assault, Rhein noted.

“My client has been charged with simple battery,” he said. “She has pleaded not guilty. The case has been continued.”

Rhein noted that the woman who filed the battery charge against Reid also requested an order of protection against her, but failed to show up three weeks later at a court hearing on whether to extend the protection order.

“I have a guess as to why that is,” Rhein said. “They wanted money from the federal government for what they saw as a bad claim. And her lawyer did not want to risk her ruining the case by having me, who has experience, cross-examining her.”

Rhein called the case against Reid “a bad criminal case, and I predict my client will be found not guilty.”

A hearing before a St. Clair County judge on motions involving the case is set for March 18.

In addition, Reid’s hearing to reclaim her old job before the federal Merit System Protection Board is scheduled for March 31 at a federal office building in downtown St. Louis.

Reid, after about six months on paid administrative leave, lost her job with AMC in early October, about three months after the drafting of a report from an internal investigation of the workplace climate in the Analysis Branch office, called AMC/A3B.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott M. Hanson, AMC’s director of operations, appointed an officer to look “into all aspects of the facts and circumstances concerning the alleged existence of a hostile work environment in AMC/A3B,” according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by the News-Democrat.

The investigating officer was directed to look into four separate allegations of harassment and intimidation against Reid that involved claims of indecent or inappropriate touching and statements.

The investigator also looked into two other separate allegations: that an atmosphere of improper or wrongful harassment and intimidation existed within the AMC/A3B office in violation of Air Force regulations; and that Reid’s supervisor had known about the allegations against Reid but had failed to report them to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, as required under Air Force rules.

The AMC/A3B is also known as the Department of Defense Commercial Airlift Division. It consists of three branches responsible for the assessment of commercial air carriers to provide safe, quality and reliable airlift to Pentagon units. The unit performs capability surveys, data collections, analysis, and technical evaluation of data relative to the quality and safety of air transportation services.

One of AMC/A3B’s three branches is called Analysis. It consists of nine civilian employees, including Reid, the unit branch chief. Reid presided over a female clique of employees nicknamed “the henhouse,” according to the report.

The report, called a “Commander Directed Report of Investigation,” whose author’s name was redacted, provides an often-unflattering portrait of a work environment characterized by frequent unprofessional behavior, lax supervision and hostility to newcomers. As a result, the lines blurred between the cultures of work and off-duty socializing, according to the report, while a clique mentality prevailed.

One of the three alleged victims of Reid’s harassment said Reid ran her branch “like a high school with all the intimidation, cliquishness and drama you’d expect of high school girls,” according to the alleged victim’s interview statement. Reid is the leader of the pack who “uses physical intimidation like slapping people on the rear end and grabbing their breasts to try to intimidate the stronger personalities,” according to the woman’s statement.

Ultimately, the investigator determined that the four harassment allegations against Reid had been substantiated, while the allegation of a hostile work environment had also been substantiated, according to the investigative report.

“The hostile work environment is not caused by one person,” the investigator wrote. “It is a collective of all those who’ve participated in unprofessional behavior over a long period of time. This will take incredible leadership to be able to correct the festering and neglect that occurred over a long period of time.”

The investigator, however, labeled as unsubstantiated the allegation that Reid’s supervisor had been aware of the harassment and intimidation and had failed to report it in compliance with Air Force regulations.

In response to written questions from the News-Democrat, an AMC spokesman wrote that the Air Force policy is to have “zero tolerance for this type of behavior and to take timely and appropriate action when problems occur.”

When a problem like the one identified in AMC/A3B is discovered “it commands our immediate attention,” the spokesman wrote. “The Air Force response is to investigate and then take appropriate action. This ensures the matter is resolved and those responsible are held accountable.”

As for the specific problems that surfaced in AMC/A3B, “Command officials took swift action to investigate the incident and hold accountable those responsible,” the spokesman wrote. “In addition, a number of group and individual counseling sessions were conducted to reinforce Air Force policy prohibiting this type behavior.”