Ex-policewoman awarded $225,000 to settle lawsuit

The city of Seattle has agreed to pay a former Seattle policewoman $225,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that her supervisor and two fellow officers sexually harassed her and that department leaders tried to force her out of the ranks for reporting it.

The agreement, reached last month, means neither the city nor the officers admit any wrongdoing. But the attorney for former policewoman Heather Hottle said the lawsuit succeeded in changing some of the ways the department handles sexual-harassment allegations.

"We hope that, unlike Heather Hottle, future officers will feel vindicated rather than victimized by the department when they report sexual harassment," said Seattle attorney Scott Blankenship.

Police leaders declined yesterday to comment on the settlement. The officers accused of harassment have been recommended for discipline, but the department declined to disclose the details because the cases are still tied up in appeals.

The officers could not be reached yesterday.

Kathryn Harper, a spokeswoman for City Attorney Tom Carr, said paying Hottle was preferable to risking a trial and possibly much larger damages. The city never denied that Hottle was harassed, but it had denied department leaders tried to cover it up. "Nothing is admitted or denied" by the settlement, Harper said.

Hottle, 34, sued the department a year ago, alleging that a sergeant, Eddie Rivera, who was serving as Hottle's commander in the South Precinct, harassed her in 2000 after she spurned his advances. She alleged that Officers Michael Goetz and Miguel Torres were enlisted to contribute to the harassment, which, she said, included breaking into her home.

Hottle also alleged that when she reported the harassment, the department's former human-resources director, Janice Corbin, and a sergeant then in charge of equal-employment opportunities, Terri MacMillan, belittled her allegations and then focused on Hottle's fitness for duty.

Since she resigned from the department in December 2000, Hottle has been teaching in Arizona, Blankenship said. She could not be reached for comment.

Ian Ith: 206-464-2109 or iith@seattletimes.com