Washington State employee harassed with official mail

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 31 2002 1:00 AM ET

An openly gay officer with the Washington State fish and wildlife office has received an antigay letter on official department letterhead, but both state and federal officials say that no crime has been committed and that there is no action they can take in the matter, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Bob Lantienge says he received the package eight days before Christmas. The letter, which was written on official Fish and Wildlife Department stationery, was addressed to Lantiegne and read, "Merry Christmas, you [expletive] Santa." Included in the package was a white T-shirt emblazoned with an antigay epithet in bold iron-on letters. "I felt at risk immediately," Lantiegne said.

But Lantiegne said the Fish and Wildlife Department has done nothing in response to the harassment and that a postal inspector in Seattle told him that because the letter had nothing to do with fraud, a death threat, or child pornography, there was nothing they could do. The FBI, meanwhile, told Lantiegne that unless someone shot him, burned down his house, or damaged his car, the agency could not take the case. The December letter is not the first antigay correspondence Lantiegne has received at work. Last February he received a pornographic magazine that was delivered in a department envelope along with an unrelated memo. "With some of the comments I've heard in the past, I think a rational mind would realize there is a risk of getting hurt or killed," he said. "'No [homosexuals]' can be interpreted a lot of ways, and one of them is, '[Homosexuals] are going to be taken out.'"

Lantiegne's regional supervisor, Bill Hebner, said he has not yet seen the complaint about the December letter but that he is satisfied with the department's handling of the February mailing. "I wanted to take action right away," he said, adding that Lantiegne's perception of foot-dragging is a misunderstanding. "Officer Lantiegne and I have an excellent working relationship--we have been through numerous incidents with him that have been resolved to his satisfaction," Hebner said. "I'm surprised that he would be critical. The agency takes those kinds of incidents very seriously, and we are committed to making sure they do not happen. But, unfortunately, there are circumstances beyond our control. I have no idea who sent this letter."