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Workers complain of sexual allegations

February 03, 1998
By: Samantha Young
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mel Carnahan's office said it is satisfied to let the state's Corrections Department investigate recent allegations made by two former disgruntled state employees.

Sally Keaton and Robert Veltrop testified to the Corrections Appropriations Committee on Jan. 21 alledging that female prison workers having to sleep with their supervisors for a promotion.

Both said they have friends who have been passed over for a promotion for women with lower test scores who have slept with their supervisors.

"They also trade the women and send them down the line," Veltrop said.

Tim Kniest, Department of Correction's spokesman, however, said the promotions are not based on test scores alone.

"The top 15 scores are eligible," he said. "Within the top 15 scores, there is an interview process and we look at a person's work history and a decision is make depending on different criteria."

Rep. Quincy Troupe, D-St. Louis, who heads the committee that heard the allegations, said correction officers have too much control over the inmates, which allows them to force the prisoners into sexual activities.

"If they refuse (to have sexual relations) they can be destroyed, put in the hole, sentence extended," said Troupe, who has been a frequent critic of the state's prison system. "Guards virtually have the power to keep an inmate in jail for life."

As field director for the NAACP, Keaton said she has received hundreds of complaint letters describing sexual violations from women in the corrections department. Keaton, however, said she has never been a victim of sexual harassment.

Keaton provided the names of several female workers who she said would substantiate her charges. All had been transferred to other locations and could not be located.

Despite, Keaton's claim she has showed the director of corrections, Dora Schriro, letters since 1992, Kniest said the January hearing was the first time his department had heard of such allegations.

Troupe said Keaton and Veltrop's testimonies were very similar to complaints heard in September by some 60 prison workers.

At that time, Troupe said he also asked Schriro to look into the allegations.

Troupe said nothing has been done.

"I believe Dora feels that a lot of these allegations are true," Troupe said. "But she don't know how to deal with the ol' boys club, which is probably stronger than she is."

Consequently, Troupe appointed a five-member subcommittee to investigate the September and January allegations against the corrections department.

The department has formed its own group to explore the accusations taken against it. Kniest said a review board composed of several state agencies will advise their department, and if problems are found, action will be taken.

"The department has in place sexual or racial harassment policies that ensures the workplace is good for all employees, and we would discipline accordingly."