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The Love Shack

J. Hadley Hooper

This is what City of Aurora employee Anita Burkhart told the Aurora police in 1997 about Becky Beckler, the acting manager of Original Aurora Renewal, a department in the city's Office of Community Development:

"Becky was stalking him. At work, Becky was just Becky. Her personality would change when it was after work. She was the worst when she was acting manager of OAR. Her style of dress changed. She wore bright colors since Scott started working for Community Development. She also started wearing makeup and fixing her hair. She also lost weight since Scott started."

Becky Beckler began working as a temp for the City of Aurora in February 1989, making just $6 an hour. After being hired on as a permanent employee, she slogged through the ranks as a city planner and a senior planner. By 1995, she was serving as the acting manager of the community-development division and was overseeing the disbursement of millions of dollars of federal housing money and various grants; she also helped needy citizens secure low-interest loans for housing.

"A hard worker" was how one fellow employee described her.

In July 1997, she was making $22.32 an hour as the acting manager of OAR, the city's unofficial cheerleading squad that rallies for "community self-esteem/image, personal/collective responsibility, and social/economic vitality," according to the city's Web site.

That summer, however, a 32-year-old employee in her department named Scott Berg told his supervisor that Beckler, who was 39 at the time, had been sexually harassing him. His supervisor recommended to Berg that the matter "should be taken further." Berg called the Aurora police, and an investigation ensued.

Berg told Aurora detective Dana Hatfield that Beckler began harassing him soon after he was hired by the City of Aurora in July 1995. He said Beckler first began leaving notes on his computer in 1996 and then on his car -- while it was parked in front of his Lakewood house. He provided Hatfield with notes, letters and e-mails from Beckler that he had saved, all of which expressed her interest in him. One read, "I admire your body from afar."

When Beckler started calling him at home, where he lived with his girlfriend, he told her to stop. When she gave Berg, an avid bicyclist, two posters from the Tour de France, he quickly returned them. By every indication, Berg gave Beckler the Heisman -- an unmistakable stiff-arm -- and declined Beckler's advances.

According to Hatfield's report, which is now part of a federal lawsuit filed by Beckler, Berg's co-workers tried to protect him from Beckler's advances by purposely soiling his reputation when she was around, dismissing him as "a ladies' man" and an "asshole." "They did this to Becky as a ploy to get her to leave Scott alone," Hatfield's notes read.

Beckler, however, insisted it was Berg who "welcomed a consensual relationship." She told Hatfield that Berg would often walk by her office door, pretending to retrieve needless office supplies from a nearby file cabinet, just to "show off his body." She claimed Berg entered her office, told her he was erect and confessed that he "put a sock over it."

She even recalled a time that Berg's parents visited the office and stopped by her open door for an introduction. "Introducing his parents to me in my office does support a welcomeness between Scott Berg and myself," she said.

And this is what Beckler said about employee Burkhart: "Anita Burkhart indicated in her testimony that I would fix my hair in order to attract Scott. I have been going to a quote/unquote designer hair salon for more than ten years, Interhair of Cherry Creek, to get a contemporary cut and highlight. When Gary Montana (a partner at Interhair) wanted to go out on his own, I followed my hair stylist, Mishka, to his salon and thus divided my time between Interhair and Gary Montana salons. When Mishka left, I went to Kendall at Interhair. I am more than willing to produce check-payment copies back to 1992, and can go back further if need be, to show that I've been going to a designer salon long before Scott Berg was living in Colorado, and that I am and have been a woman who spends money at the salon for myself, and not just because Scott showed up."

Beckler continued: "Anita indicated in her testimony that I would dress in bright colors in order to attract Scott. As much as I like to wear Jones, Claiborne, Brooks, Pendleton, I do not have a fashion budget to change my entire wardrobe. I usually like to buy a piece or two of the latest fashion trend. What I bought was one orange blouse and scarf and dark-colored square-toed pumps. Additionally, I can produce an article from a fashion magazine which states that bright colors were a fashion trend during this time period. With all due respect to Anita, Anita generally dresses in jeans, tennis shoes and T-shirts, which she doesn't tuck in. I don't know who does her hair. May I suggest the possibility of jealousy and a serious lack of witness credibility."

Hatfield didn't buy much of Beckler's story, and in his final report, he pointed out that Beckler inappropriately used her position as a manager to access the city's registry to locate Berg's phone number and address.

Another investigator, Herman Seales, wrote, "[Berg] does have a fear of her physically. He thinks she [Beckler] has a mental problem. He doesn't know what to expect from her."

When the investigation was completed in August 1997, police chose not to file criminal charges against Beckler, but she was suspended by the city for twenty days and demoted back to city planner.

When Beckler returned to the office after her suspension, she quickly put the pieces together in her mind and, as she has laid out in her 61-page, painstakingly detailed complaint, decided there was a conspiracy against her. The motives were clear: Berg, she believes, was having an affair with an office receptionist in hopes of making Beckler's life so unbearable that she'd be forced to quit. Then, one of Beckler's enemies would be able to take her job. Beckler believed the conspirators coerced a reluctant Berg to file the harassment charge against her.

Berg, who couldn't be reached for comment, eventually quit his job on December 31, 1997. In March 1998, Beckler also resigned. Aurora city officials most likely believed their problems were behind them.

But in January 1999, Beckler filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on the grounds that she was sexually harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment. The case sat in the EEOC's files for a year before EEOC investigator Holly Romero dismissed the claims in January 2000, citing Beckler's failure to produce documents in a timely manner and her "refusal to cooperate" with the investigation.

On April 6, Beckler accused the City of Aurora, Berg and the receptionist of creating a hostile work environment and one in which Berg sexually harassed her. In the suit, which she filed in United States District Court in Denver without the aid of a lawyer, she claims that there were at least sixteen employees in the office who "participated in or had first hand knowledge of the hostile working environment and sexual harassment against Plaintiff."

The city has not yet been served with Beckler's suit, and Aurora spokeswoman Kim Stuart Abell says, "Not knowing the specifics on the case, we aren't able to comment on it at this time."

In her complaint, Beckler writes: "Scott Berg, upon filing sexual harassment charges against me in May 1997, never exhibited at that time or prior, any effects of sexual harassment, which include: denial, self-blame, humiliation, anger, depression, sleep or eating disorders, fatigue, headaches, days out of work, low morale, damaged reputation, low productivity. I realize that I don't know who the man Scott Berg is. What I do know is that it is not healthy to discuss a future with someone and then file a false charge of sexual harassment against that someone, and then think it is OK to do so because he's wealthy."

Beckler, who didn't return phone calls from Westword, is asking for $300,000 in back pay, $5 million for "the outrageous conduct of a government agency" that contributed to her suffering, $1 million from Berg, and $10,000 from the receptionist. From the looks of it, the former city official could use the dough. "The Plaintiff's current rate of pay at Sears/The Great Outdoors," she writes in the lawsuit, "is $11 per hour."


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