Health officer investigated

June 25, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A report from a state investigation alleges that Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel on numerous occasions engaged in sexually harassing behavior while on the job, including using condoms as a joke and making sexually explicit comments.

The report by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also alleges Christoffel created a hostile work environment for employees of the Health Department and the George W. Comstock Center for Public Health Research and Prevention.

The Comstock Center is a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research center housed in the Health Department.

An employee from the research center filed a complaint against the Health Department in May alleging Christoffel had been engaging in sexually harassing behavior.

A statement issued Friday and signed by Christoffel and his lawyer, Arthur Schneider of Hagerstown, states Christoffel has never "purposely or knowingly" discriminated against anyone at the Health Department or the public.


"He has dedicated himself to educating the public by using techniques which include humor and banter," according to the statement. "He has never nor would he consider making any derogatory or offensive comments to any of his staff or the public at large."

The report alleges Christoffel put a condom in the hand of a Johns Hopkins director while in the presence of several research center and Health Department employees. The employees alleged that Christoffel has made remarks that were sexually explicit and offensive, according to the report.

Specifically, the employees alleged he told them he engaged in a solitary sexual act on a public highway, the report contends.

Christoffel told Hilda J. Davis, who is a state Equal Employment Opportunity investigator for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Community Relations, he put the condom in the director's hand as a joke, the report alleges. He said the Health Department regularly discusses condoms because of the county's high number of teen pregnancies, the report alleges.

The report alleges Christoffel admitted making specific, sexually explicit remarks reported by Johns Hopkins employees.

Johns Hopkins employees also said during the investigation they saw Christoffel, while he was speaking with the Johns Hopkins director, fondle a piece of fruit in his hands and after he laid it in his lap/crotch, the report alleges.

The investigator did not ask Christoffel whether he fondled the fruit, according to the report.

The Johns Hopkins director told the investigator that Christoffel told her one day she looked professional and said, "I like you better when you dress like a slut," the report states.

Christoffel told the investigator he does not remember making the "slut" comment, according to the report.

A Health Department employee told the investigator Christoffel often hugged a female in the hallway and that he and the female often visited each other. Another department employee said she heard "bantering" between Christoffel and the female that sounded like they were engaging in a sexual relationship, the report alleges.

Christoffel told the investigator he hugged a particular female because she was his friend, and that the hug consisted of him putting his arm around her shoulders, according to the report.

Washington County School Board members alleged Christoffel put condoms on the table while having lunch with a School Board member, according to the report.

Christoffel told the investigator the incident was intended to lighten up the moment because they were scheduled to discuss distributing condoms to teen students in Washington County Public Schools, the report alleges.

A Health Department employee alleged that Christoffel told him another female employee had the most attractive posterior he had ever seen, according to the report.

"I probably did say this," the report alleged that Christoffel told the investigator.

Christoffel identified the employee who made that statement and alleged that the employee has engaged in inappropriate conversations with him and other males about women, the report alleges.

When asked, Christoffel told the investigator he said at a Johns Hopkins symposium that he came to the conclusion that women in Washington County were obese by looking at female undergarments in a store, the report alleges.

A Washington County Board of Education member told the investigator that Christoffel told a School Board official that he saw a teacher at a school meeting dressed in a miniskirt, high heels and a low-cut top, saying the teacher was "good eye candy," according to the report.

Christoffel told the investigator he made the remark as a complaint because fifth-grade boys were at the school meeting and thought they were watching the teacher, the report alleges.

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