Employee sues Lakehaven


Staff writer

A Lakehaven Utility District employee who was disciplined last year after an e-mail conversation with a Federal Way School Board member is suing the district for racial discrimination.

Tacoma attorney Victoria Vreeland filed a lawsuit on behalf of Timolin Abrom, an African-American mom with a son in the Federal Way school district, in U.S. District Court May 12.

The lawsuit –– which names the utility district as a whole as well as district commissioners Bev Tweddle, Dick Mayer, Tom Jovanovich, Ed Stewart and Don Miller, general manager Donald Perry, attorney Steve Pritchett, director of finance Morgan Dennis and supervisor Pete Hupperten –– alleges racial discrimination against Abrom in the manner in which she was disciplined and in the way she was treated when she returned to work.

Late last year, Abrom, who is still working for Lakehaven, became involved in a confrontational e-mail volley with Earl VanDorien, then the School Board president, when she contacted him to ask about what she and other parents perceived to be a racially based discipline disparity in Federal Way schools.

When VanDorien compared the schools to the prison population and implied discipline problems among African-American students might be a cultural issue, Abrom said she planned to post their conversation on a Web site created by parents to keep tabs on the school district.

VanDorien forwarded the conversation to her bosses and complained that, as a taxpayer, he didn’t appreciate his money being used by a utility district employee to conduct political business during work.

Abrom said she communicated with VanDorien during her breaks until he accused her of misusing district computers to conduct political business and cc’d her bosses. She admitted she replied right away when she saw his accusation because she wanted to defend herself.

Following her suspension, she said she felt the political affiliation and friendships of VanDorien and Lakehaven commissioners ultimately led to her 10-day, unpaid suspension, though district officials said the e-mail conversation was not the reason she was suspended.

Abrom said the climate when she returned to work was hostile and confrontational.

In the lawsuit, Abrom alleges Hupperten, her immediate supervisor, treated her in a “demeaning and dismissive manner” by questioning or double-checking work she’d been doing for some time without any problems, responding to her in a slow, condescending manner and stating to others that he checked for supportive documentation before he approved any of her work.

Lakehaven officials maintain Abrom was suspended from work for good reason.

“The allegations of the complaint don’t accurately reflect the facts and circumstances of Ms. Abroms’ employment with the district,” said Tom Platt, the attorney representing Lakehaven. “The district will continue to vigorously defend itself and its ratepayers in this matter.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565,

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