Philly FBI sex-discrimination trial airs dirty laundry

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Megan Lampinski, currently an employee of the FBI's Philadelphia office, has filed suit against the Bureau, alleging she was passed over for promotion by the top female executive in charge at the time, Janice Fedarcyk. The widely-watched trial's opening arguments began Thursday.

In a case that promises to air dirty laundry at the FBI’s Philadelphia office, a woman who once headed the office's computer unit charged Thursday that she was a victim of sexual discrimination when she was demoted and replaced with a male employee.

The civil trial before U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner focused on why computer specialist Megan Lampinski was moved out of her job as a supervisor of the information technology division in 2008.

Lampinski’s civil rights lawsuit charges that FBI officials repeatedly violated the bureau’s policies, first in removing her and then in an effort to cover up the initial policy violations.  

“The government asserts she was a poor supervisor…. The evidence doesn’t back that up,” Lampinski’s attorney, Maurice R. Mitts, told the jury. He displayed glowing performance evaluations that Lampinski received during the two years before she was removed from her supervisory post.

Lampinski, 52, of Media, began working with the FBI in 1988, the year she received a degree from St. Joseph’s University in systems management.

In 2004, she was promoted to supervisor in the information technology unit, responsible for computer support at the Philadelphia headquarters.

Four years later, she was transferred to a nonsupervisory position in security screening. She said she had no experience for the job and considered the transfer a demotion. 

The FBI says Lampinski simply wasn’t performing well in her previous position as a supervisor.

“There was no discrimination and no retaliation,” said government attorney Kelly A. Smith.

Six women and three men were impaneled as the jury.

The lawsuit charges that FBI supervisors falsified documents to justify transferring Lampinski, and violated the agency’s rules for transferring employees and ginned up a bogus investigation to tar her.

The lawsuit singled out Janice Fedarcyk, at the time Philadelphia special agent in charge, who replaced Lampinski with a man. The suit alleges that Fedarcyk helped falsify Lampinski's performance evaluations after the fact to justify the transfer.

For her part, Lampinski testified Thursday that she was in high demand in the FBI, even being selected in 2001 as a computer specialist to work for then-Director Louis Freeh.

According to Lampinski, her troubles stemmed from a long-simmering dispute between her and a female subordinate.

Lampinski testified that at an office Christmas party, the subordinate told some male colleagues "what I and two other ladies looked like naked … since she had seen us in the gym.”

As a result, Lampinski, along with the two other women, filed a grievance against the subordinate.

Lampinski contends Fedarcyk was seeking a promotion and did not want any conflict in the office, so she transferred her. 

A host of former and current FBI officials are scheduled to testify at the trial, including Lampinski’s husband, Jeffrey, who was special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office of the FBI in 2003. He was in charge when the agency planted a bug in the office of Mayor John F. Street's City Hall office. He is now a senior security executive with the Vanguard Group.

Other special agents in charge —formerly of the Philadelphia office —are also expected to testify in the Lampinski case, including Bill Chase, Jody Weis, James Turgal, and Valerie Parlave, according to the witness list.