Down the Hall
By all indications, Baylor College of Medicine and Annette McManus had been great for each other.
McManus found a job as a receptionist there soon after graduating from Clear Creek High School in 1987. And she had worked her way up through the ranks of Baylor since then. By the mid-1990s, she was administrative coordinator of the government relations office. Her career was helping to pay for raising her expanding family, and supervisors had been happy with her performance.
No one seemed more pleased than her boss, Thomas W. Kleinworth, the senior director of government relations for the medical school. He was Baylor's veteran lobbyist with state government, helping the school pull in an estimated $30 million in key funding for programs and operations.
According to McManus, Kleinworth made his pleasure known to her often -- too often, in fact. She says that on May 28, he bestowed a gift on her: a small vibrator. "This is for the long and lonely rides to and from work," she quoted him as saying.
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On another occasion, the boss presented her with a flimsy halter-top shirt, allegedly telling her, "I would love to see you in this without a bra."
The encounters came via e-mail as well as in person. Kleinworth sent pornographic images to her, including hard-core shots of women being "fisted," she says. Then there was the exam that was e-mailed from his computer -- the "Official Male Sensitivity Test." The multiple-choice sheet presented questions such as whether intercourse should be referred to as "taking the pigskin bus to tuna town."
And another Kleinworth "gag" was an e-mail rundown of politically correct descriptions explaining that "She is not a two-bit whore. She is a low-cost provider."
Kleinworth went beyond words, McManus says, in telling how she would have to turn away to avoid his attempts to hug her and kiss her on the lips. Then there were his alleged trysts with others, affairs that McManus had to keep from his wife.
"I felt trapped with no place to turn," she says. "I endured the sexual comments, illicit e-mails and advances as long as I could, because I needed the income to provide for my family."
As she wrestled within herself over what to do about the situation, the answer came on Father's Day: Kleinworth, she says, told her about a sexual fling with a visibly pregnant woman.
Her nights of crying and anxiety attacks ended. McManus reported his conduct to the highest reaches of Baylor, president and CEO Ralph Feigin and general counsel W. Dalton Tomlin. And they allegedly did virtually nothing against one of their star lobbyists.
"I believe that Mr. Kleinworth was not terminated because he generates millions of dollars for the college," she told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Earlier this month, McManus took her complaints elsewhere: to state district court.
Baylor College of Medicine refuses to comment on the accusations or anything else relating to the case. Spokesman Ron Gilmore explained that the college's policy is not to discuss litigation, and that Kleinworth also declines to talk about the allegations. Baylor is the target of her EEOC discrimination charge, but Kleinworth is the only defendant in the civil suit for sexual harassment.
Court records showed no past suits involving Kleinworth, although McManus says in an affidavit that Baylor officials were well aware of the history of sexually abusive conduct by the lobbyist.
She says the school investigated him for inappropriate comments and advances toward another female employee in 1995. "Despite admitting his guilt, he received no sanction, reprimand or counseling," McManus told the EEOC. "Mr. Kleinworth's tales of prostitutes, topless bars and sexual affairs are also routine within the walls of Baylor."
She reported that she had to keep secret various flings he had with other women, including a Travis County prosecutor, a Harris County hospital district worker and a top aide for a state senator. McManus says her silence had to extend to his use of an Austin apartment -- one paid for by Baylor -- where he had his trysts with women.
"Mr. Kleinworth instructed me that if anything happened to him, I had to burn his files regarding these matters," she stated in her affidavit.
John T. Simpson Jr., McManus's attorney, says at least one of Kleinworth's paramours had her own key to the Baylor-funded apartment to expedite her affair with the lobbyist.
"He had the key, and so did one of his girlfriends," Simpson says. "It is like a soap opera. This is unbelievable -- people pulling in millions of dollars a year acting like this. They are supposed to be representing the best and brightest of Baylor College -- and they are just out sleeping around with each other."
Simpson says the former Baylor worker who reported Kleinworth's conduct in 1995 has moved to California. "She can't believe he's still in his same position and that he's doing it again," the attorney says. "The way Baylor allows the men to treat women is just ridiculous."
The school has instituted a zero-tolerance policy against Internet porn on Baylor computers, and a few employees have been fired when obscene photos were found on their hard drives, Simpson says, contrasting that with Kleinworth's continued employment.
"I guess zero tolerance just depends on how much money you're bringing in" [for Baylor], he says.
While the college remained silent about any action against Kleinworth, McManus says in her affidavit that officials reported to her that he had been placed on administrative leave for four weeks and was scheduled to return to his regular duties last week.
Simpson says McManus initially was told Kleinworth would be fired, but the attorney and his client believe executives of the college interceded to reduce that discipline. Simpson also says that Baylor contends the lobbyist was disciplined for insubordination -- misuse of the Austin apartment -- rather than sexual harassment.
McManus, meanwhile, was handed a list of job openings elsewhere within the college and told that a transfer might be available for her. "Her response was that 'I've been here for 15 years; I've been working in this department for 11 years; I didn't do anything wrong,' " Simpson says. "They basically gave her the ultimatum to apply for another position or deal with it."
Kleinworth also was moved down the hall away from McManus's desk, Simpson reports. "That's the most absurd response I've ever come across in a harassment case," he says. "The ironic thing is that he's now right next to the women's restroom -- she's going to have to walk past him every day."
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