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Campus Notebook: Capitol Police sexual discrimination trial set for Monday

Senate Indian Affairs Committee staffer paid to work Washington Redskins training camp

Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund. The agency he leads is fighting a sexual discrimination lawsuit. The trial is set to start Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund. The agency he leads is fighting a sexual discrimination lawsuit. The trial is set to start Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Are you ready for some football? How about a sexual discrimination case? Whatever it is, Campus Notebook is here for you. 

Capitol Police discrimination trial

A sexual discrimination case against the Capitol Police could provide a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the secretive agency and the way women are treated in the male-dominated police force.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday in the case of a former Capitol Police officer who alleges she was wrongfully terminated by the agency based on her sex and retaliated against, in part, for reporting sexual harassment by a supervisor.

Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis alleges that from the start of her training to become a Capitol Police officer she experienced differential treatment, was held to different standards than male trainees and was constantly berated, belittled and disciplined for minor violations that male trainees committed without repercussion.

The case will be before Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Brown was considered to be a potential Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama to fill the seat of the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

Sourgoutsis graduated from the agency’s training academy in November 2014. During training, she received a disciplinary form for being “prejudiced” in a training exercise.

After graduation, Sourgoutsis became a probationary Capitol Police officer and her probationary status was set to end Nov. 15, 2015. On May 10, 2015, she was disciplined for a uniform infraction. The next day she was issued another disciplinary action for sitting on a retaining wall while guarding a door at the Capitol Visitors Center. Sourgoutsis’ attention was cited as being diverted from guarding the open door because she was talking to an Architect of the Capitol employee.

In August 2015, Sourgoutsis was called to the agency’s investigations department to be interviewed as a witness regarding allegations of sexual harassment made by female officers against Sourgoutsis’ supervisor, Sgt. Tyrone Vias, the complaint alleges.

According to the complaint, Sourgoutsis said in the interview that Vias called her and other women “Chica” and “Senorita,” made obscene pelvic gestures more than once in front of her and other officers. She also noted that Vias “checked out” women’s bodies, made “weird and inappropriate” comments to and about women, and complimented Sourgoutsis’ Facebook profile picture and said she should wear make-up more often, the complaint states.

Vias has since been promoted to lieutenant.

Weeks before she was set to complete her probationary period, on Oct. 29, 2015, Sourgoutsis was informed that the Capitol Police human resources department was recommending her termination.

Sourgoutsis is suing for compensatory damages, lost pay and other fees associated with trial costs.

Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, declined to comment. 

Lack of female officers at Capitol Police

As part of the litigation, the Capitol Police provided the breakdown of officers by gender from 2011 through 2017.  In 2017, out of 1,759 total officers at the agency, there were 1,440 males and 319 females. For 2016, the numbers weren’t much different: 327 female officers and 1,440 males, marking a total of 1,767.

Senate Indian Affairs Committee staff director with a passion for football

Mike Andrews, the staff director and chief counsel of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has a breadth of football coaching experience from high school to college, and even had a stint as a consultant for D.C’s NFL team.

The Washington Redskins football team paid Andrews $3,000, financial disclosures show. Andrews, who is the top staffer for the Republican majority under Chairman Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, lists in his 2018 annual report that he held the position of consultant for Washington Redskins Football Inc., where he served as training camp coordinator for the team in August of that year.

Andrews was a dual-sport athlete at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., where he played baseball and football. He was a kicker and punter on the football team and after graduating in 1993, he stayed on and coached as a graduate assistant at his alma mater for a year.

Andrews was an All-MEAC kicker at Morgan State, according to the university’s website. He also spent some time trying out for NFL teams.

“I was bouncing around the NFL trying to land a job as a placekicker and it didn’t pan out as we like to say,” Andrews said. “And I had a tremendous experience with that even though I didn’t make any teams.”

Andrews eventually went on to get a law degree from the University of Arizona, where he also coached.

From 2009 to 2016, Andrews was an assistant football coach at Howard University where he was responsible for kicking and special teams. In 2015, Andrews started at the Indian Affairs Committee, and balanced his passion for coaching football with his Senate job.

“When there’s a 5am practice, it makes for a very long day for me,” Andrews said.

When the Redskins were looking for coaches to help with training camp in 2018, Andrews had a contact from his Howard tenure who reached out to him. For that short stint, he didn’t do any football specific work; instead Andrews was responsible for training camp security, training, delivery of merchandise, opening and closing camp, and working with the media.

“It was about a 15-hour day everyday,” Andrews said.

Now, Andrews coaches kickers and punters at Bishop McNamara High School.

“Great bunch of kids,” Andrews said. “My goal is to make them better men and have an opportunity to play at the next level.”

I like Ike (memorial)

President Donald Trump on Friday announced the appointment of Catherine Ann Stevens, a partner at Mayer Brown LLP and the widow of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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