Scott Fornek, Chicago Sun-Times, Jul. 16
A former White House deputy drug czar hoping to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate was found to have “engaged in lewd and abusive behavior” by joking about the sexual orientation of an underling at an office party.
An internal investigation last year substantiated charges that Dr. Andrea Grubb Barthwell made jokes about a male employee’s sexuality after he mistakenly referred to his daughter’s boyfriend as “my boyfriend.”
In front of a group of co-workers, Barthwell spoke of the man wanting to sit in other men’s laps, pretended a kaleidoscope was a male sexual organ and set it pointing upwards on a chair he was about to sit in, according to the report. She also suggested he cut the cake at the party because the knife was “long and hard” and he might enjoy handling it.”
“I know you like it big and meaty,” Barthwell allegedly told him when commenting on the pieces of cake being “moist” and “beefy.”
Barthwell, 50, quit her job as a deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy last week so she could interview with Republican leaders looking for a replacement for GOP Senate nominee Jack Ryan, who folded his candidacy amid allegations he once took his wife to sex clubs.
The Chicago Sun-Times obtained a copy of the internal inquiry into whether Barthwell created a “hostile workplace.” An agency spokeswoman confirmed its accuracy and said Barthwell was sent to anti-sexual harassment training and Equal Employment Opportunity training. “The matter was addressed to the satisfaction of all parties,” said agency spokeswoman Jennifer de Vallance.
Barthwell said the Dec. 19, 2002, office party was to celebrate the holidays and workers with birthdays that month. She admitted to participating in what she described as “light banter back and forth” after a heterosexual worker mistakenly said he had to walk his “boyfriend’s dog.”
“He meant to say ‘my daughter’s boyfriend’s dog,’” Barthwell said. “One of his co-workers picked up on it and teased him. . . And I engaged in the banter also.
“I should not have participated in it. I regret it. And I’m sorry. . . it was foolish of me. I was wrong.”
Another worker included the incident with other complaints in a “hostile workplace” memorandum, and agency officials ordered a fact-finding inquiry. After interviewing 26 people inside and outside the agency, the official conducting the probe reported the “allegation is fully substantiated by multiple interviews.”
The inquiry found evidence of “excessive displays of temper by Dr. Barthwell” and concluded her management style “created an atmosphere of intimidation and lack of respect for” the agency’s leadership.
Barthwell dismissed those findings as the complaints of employees who were upset that she came in with a mission to increase productivity in the department, which had lacked a politically appointed deputy director for 11 years.
A former employee, Bernie McCann, described Barthwell’s tenure as “a management nightmare,” so bad that her staff dropped from 14 when she started to two in late 2003.
“They found Dr. Barthwell difficult to work for — and we can even say extremely difficult to work for,” said McCann, 50, a policy analyst who left the department to pursue a doctoral degree. “There were, I think the term might be ‘dressing downs,’ bullying, arbitrary supervisory decisions . . . belittling . . . ridicule.”
Barthwell dismissed McCann as “a former disgruntled employee and said the number of workers dropped because “early retirement was given as an option, and a number of people who couldn’t keep up with the pace opted out.”
Barthwell also said she is recovering from addictions to alcohol, cocaine, prescription drugs and marijuana, but has not used any of those substances for 20 years.
“My history is much like many other people,” she said.
Members of the Republican State Central Committee, which must choose Ryan’s replacement, were split on whether the incident would hurt Barthwell’s chances.