- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

A federal jury yesterday decided that a top Metro official did not discriminate racially against his former office administrator when she was transferred to another job last year.

Betty J. Wallace, a former office administrator for Metro's Transit System Development department, said in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that Assistant General Manager Panagiotis T. "Takis" Salpeas created a hostile work environment and that she was forced out of her job because she is black.

Ms. Wallace, 53, complained in her lawsuit that Mr. Salpeas had hired two white women to replace her.

Yesterday, Ms. Wallace expressed disappointment over the verdict but said she feels "vindicated because I had my day in court." She does not intend to appeal the ruling.

Mr. Salpeas and other Metro officials declined to comment about the verdict.

The Washington Times first reported in July 2001 that Ms. Wallace had filed the lawsuit on the same day Metro agreed to settle a more than $100,000 sexual harassment claim against Mr. Salpeas.

The jury found that Ms. Wallace was involuntarily transferred from her job into a lower position in the marketing department, but at the same pay. The jury said the transfer was not racially motivated.

David R. Keyser, an attorney representing Metro, said in closing arguments that if Mr. Salpeas were a racist he would have fired Ms. Wallace immediately when he was named to head Metro's main construction department in September 1998. He said Mr. Salpeas had a right to hire his own staff when he took over the department.

"Does Takis take his freebie? His free shot? No, because he believed Ms. Wallace in the right environment could do the job," Mr. Keyser said.

Ms. Wallace said that Mr. Salpeas kept her in the job long enough to hire his own staff. She testified that when she began interviewing secretaries to work in the office, he rejected two black applicants and hired Mary Knight, a white woman.

Miss Knight now works in Ms. Wallace's old job and makes $4,000 more a year that Ms. Wallace, court records show.

Mr. Salpeas testified that the two women Ms. Wallace recommended did not have the experience he needed.

He said he wanted someone with construction experience and hired Miss Knight after he saw that she had worked for a construction company for 10 years.

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