Senate security employee escorted out of Capitol as harassment suit works through court: report

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

*This story was updated on Wednesday afternoon to include comments from senate secretary Megan Martin.

More than a year after she accused her then-supervisor for sexual harassment, a top official with the state Senate security force isn’t sure if she still has her job or not, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.

Two sources told the Inquirer’s Angela Couloumbis that Sue Salov, deputy director of Senate security, was escorted out of by Capitol Police on March 7.

She was allegedly told to turn in her badge, pack her personal belongings, and not report back to work until she heard from Senate leadership, the newspaper reported.

In the days since, Senate officials would not confirm Salov’s employment status to the Inquirer. Only on Wednesday, six days after Salov was escorted out of the Capitol, did Senate Secretary Megan Martin confirm that Salov remained a paid employee, The Inquirer reported.

Martin also confirmed to the Capital-Star on Thursday that Salov is an employee who remains on the Senate’s payroll.*

Martin did not respond to a request to see the Senate policy that permits them to remove Salov from her workplace without a suspension or termination, saying only, “We are, and have been, dealing with this personnel matter.”

  • Read More: Can the Pa. Legislature be trusted to investigate harassment complaints against its own members?

Salov is currently suing her former supervisor, Justin Ferrante, the Senate, and the Commonwealth in in federal court, alleging that they “illegally subjected her to sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.”

The state’s victims advocate, whose office works with crime victims, condemned the Senate’s treatment of Salov, a 25-year member of the security force.

“Everything that you’re describing — being told to take your personal belongings, turning in your badge, being cut off from work email — those are all common things that happen when someone is being fired,” Jennifer Storm, the state’s victim advocate, told the Inquirer. “What is not common: the vagueness of them not telling an employee what’s happening, or handing them something in writing.”

Salov claims that Senate leaders are retaliating against her for her lawsuit. In 2017, she filed a complaint against her supervisor, Ferrante, saying he texted her inappropriate graphics and cartoons, and a picture of male genitalia, The Inquirer reported.

Around the same time, a long-time receptionist in the Senate office accused Ferrante of lewd behavior and filed her own suit against him.

Ferrante has denied the allegations, but resigned from the security force in 2018.

The Inquirer reported in February that the Senate quietly paid $23,355 to cover Ferrante’s legal bills. They did not extend the same assistance to either woman who accused him of harassment.

A top Senate lawyer told the Inquirer that the legal assistance was consistent with Senate policies, and that the Senate is also contributing to his bills since they’re named a co-defendant in the women’s lawsuits.

Even though Salov stayed on Senate staff after she filed her lawsuit, she was reportedly stripped of some duties and access and given a poor performance review for the first time in her career, the Inquirer reports.

She was also placed on a 90-day “performance improvement plan” that was completed on Thursday, the day she was escorted out of the Capitol.

The incident is the latest in a string of misconduct cases in Pennsylvania’s Capitol, which have led some lawmakers to say that the Legislature’s current investigation practices lack transparency and impartiality.

Pennsylvania lawmakers adjourned the 2017-2018 legislative session without taking any action to bolster workplace protections.

They also failed to create a single standard for handling in-house misconduct complaints, leaving leaders in the Senate and the House with wide discretion for handling such cases.

Republican lawmakers from Luzerne County are expected to introduce bills that would create a conduct review board to hear complaints of harassment, misconduct and corruption against legislators.

“Many of our constituents are highly dissatisfied with the manner in which complaints have been handled,” state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, said in a statement in February, after she and Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne, described their plans for a conduct review board in a co-sponsorship memo to their colleagues.

“The House and Senate Ethics committees as currently constituted are not sufficient to assure the public that these situations are being properly investigated,” Baker continued. “In this era of heightened disclosure and rising demands for accountability, we can no longer justify conducting reviews from the inside.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Unfortunately, this is how state government works. When you aren’t covered by civil service, the state can let you go at any time without a reason because you are an at-will employee. Remember that when you are hired. This is typical of the blame-the-employee seen in government and the private sector. First, they downgrade your performance evaluation so they have some reason to fire you in case you pursue this legally. Then you are robbed of your pension because you filed a complaint, while others who did commit actual crimes, get to keep their pensions because they are politically well-connected.

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