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Phoenix News – Have “Boom Boom,” Will Travel

Phoenix New Times
By Philip Martin

Town officials say in their statement that while the four women described acts that began in 1987 (when Wieand first began working for the municipality), the women did not submit complaints of harassment until January 24, 1991, when Wieand told her immediate supervisor, town attorney Charles Ollinger, of an incident the previous July.

According to the town’s statement, Kalla denied the charges, was subsequently “counseled” on the town’s prohibitions against sexual harassment and had a letter of warning placed in his personnel file.

Bill Hayden, one of the attorneys representing the town in the case, says that after town officials became aware of more serious allegations in February, they asked town magistrate Dee Dee Myer to conduct an independent investigation. About 40 past and present employees were interviewed during the monthlong probe, says Hayden, but the results were inconclusive. During the investigation, Kalla was placed on administrative leave with pay.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the four women were asked to take polygraph tests. They refused on the advice of their attorneys. Kalla was also asked to take a polygraph examination–he also refused. In March, he submitted his resignation.

Kalla, who was born in Bethlehem and came to the United States when he was 16, has suggested that the harassment charges might have something to do with a cultural misunderstanding. After earning a degree from the University of Illinois and before coming to Paradise Valley, he served as director of planning and implementation for Qatar, a tiny Middle Eastern nation on a Persian Gulf peninsula adjacent to Kuwait. He has noted that it is not unusual for people of his culture to greet others with hugs and kisses, and that he was not reluctant to treat town employees in this manner.

The women, however, allege that Kalla’s actions were abusive.

Contrary to the town’s statement, they say they first complained of Kalla’s behavior to Mary Ann Brines, who functioned as personnel director, and that Baudek should have known about Kalla’s behavior merely from observing him around the office and at social occasions.

They also allege that the town has made things difficult for them since they made their complaints–they claim that for a time Kalla was even named acting personnel director, with direct supervisory power over them. They say long-standing town policies in regard to lunch hours, time off for doctor’s appointments and the cashing of personal checks were changed in an effort to segregate them from other employees, and to–in the words of attorney Miller–”turn them into the pariahs of the office.”

For the first time since they have been employed by the city, their lawsuit says, the women have begun to receive less-than-glowing job performance evaluations. They say they can no longer go to lunch at the same time.

“It seems like petty stuff, and taken separately it is all just petty stuff, but taken together it forms a pattern,” Sinner says. She adds that her clients want to keep their jobs with the town, that their reluctance to quit was one of the factors that caused them to put up with Kalla’s misbehavior. The idea of a lawsuit only arose–according to Miller and Sinner–after Chapman was hired by the town and Kalla began to make overtures to her.

“These were women in their 40s–rightly or wrongly, they believed they should be able to handle his advances,” says Miller. “But when they saw him coming on to this young woman, a line had been crossed.”

With Kalla gone, things are better for their clients, say Miller and Sinner. But the town has not admitted liability, and the women’s attorneys say it’s unlikely the suit will be settled out of court.

Lydia Kalla, Kalla’s wife, had little to say about the case when she answered the door last week at her south Tempe home, referring all questions about the case to attorney Arthur Carter. Her husband, she said, has been a very busy man since his resignation; he has real estate interests to look after and a war-ravaged nation to rebuild.

“It’s about money,” Lydia Kalla said with a shrug. “Those women, they’re all old and ugly and they aren’t very highly paid. They’re just trying to get something.”

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