Congress

High-ranking Capitol Police official admits he circumvented protocol to fire female officer

Third day of sexual discrimination trial reveals Sourgoutsis’ direct supervisors were not included in firing process

A former Capitol Police officer has alleged she was fired from the force because of her gender. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The male Capitol Police official who recommended the firing of a female officer testified Thursday that he arrived at that decision without ever meeting with her or consulting her direct supervisor.

It was the only termination endorsement Eric C. Waldow made while he was in the role of inspector, he said in D.C. district court on the third day of  the sexual discrimination case brought by the female officer, Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis.

Sourgoutsis has alleged the police force fired her in 2015 because of her gender and retaliated against her for participating in an internal investigation into alleged sexual harassment by one of her supervisors, Sgt. Tyrone Vias. Waldow, who is now a deputy chief for the Capitol Police, revealed Thursday that he failed to properly follow the department’s rules in evaluating and subsequently firing Sourgoutsis.

Sourgoutsis received two command disciplinary infractions during her probationary period as a new officer: one for a uniform infraction and one for sitting on a retaining wall and being distracted from guarding a door at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Waldow said he never met with Sourgoutsis prior to her termination nor did he talk to Sgt. Maria Willis, her direct, or first-line, supervisor, to gather knowledge of her job performance.

“Her actions spoke very loudly,” Waldow said.

Earlier in the day, Willis testified that she never established a performance plan for Sourgoutsis, as required by Capitol Police rules. She also said she did not complete any quarterly performance reports for Sourgoutsis, another requirement of first-line supervisors, adding that she was not trained on the matter. Former Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa in his testimony Tuesday described the department’s lack of attention to the quarterly reports as a “systemic failure.” 

Willis completed the fourth and final performance reports for all probationary officers under her charge, with the exception of Sourgoutsis. It was Waldow who took the initiative to complete her final report, which yielded an “unsatisfactory” evaluation — and he did not ask Willis for any earlier quarterlies on Sourgoutsis” performance. 

“There were none,” he said Thursday. 

Under Capitol Police rules, “Prior quarterly ratings must be considered when making the final determination regarding the retention of the probationary employee.” And recommendations regarding potential termination during the probationary period “should begin with the employee’s first-line supervisor,” according to the department’s directive.

As an inspector, Waldow was several ranks above Sourgoutsis, a position far removed from Sourgoutsis’ work on a regular basis.

Willis testified that she never recommended that Sourgoutsis be fired and described her as a “good officer” on a day-to-day basis. She also noted Sourgoutsis “worked a lot of overtime.” But when Willis found out Sourgoutsis was going to be fired, she did not advocate on her behalf and said she did not push back on Waldow’s final probationary summary that recommended termination. 

Other male officers have been disciplined for violations before their probationary periods ended — like Sourgoutsis — but those men were not fired. 

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 7: Tyrone Vias of the U.S. Capitol Police leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthousel on Thursday Nov. 7, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Lt. Tyrone Vias of the U.S. Capitol Police leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Vias, who was also Sourgoutsis’ first-line supervisor, testified Thursday that she met the Capitol Police’s expectations.

“From my observation, yes,” he said.

On Aug. 18, 2015, Sourgoutsis was interviewed by Sgt. Mark S. Shutters in an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Vias. Sourgoutsis said in the interview that Vias called her and other women “chica” and “senorita.” She also noted that Vias complimented her appearance, referring to her Facebook profile picture. Waldow learned Sourgoutsis was being interviewed by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the division that investigates allegations of misconduct, on Aug. 18.

On Aug. 27, 2015, Waldow issued Vias a personnel performance note telling him to address subordinates in an “appropriate manner.”

Waldow sent his decision to terminate Sourgoutsis to Deputy Chief Chad B. Thomas on Sept. 4, 2015.

Vias has since been promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

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