Former Worker Sues Tulsa's John 3:16 Mission

Monday, June 8th 2009, 5:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A former employee has filed suit against Tulsa's John 3:16 Mission.  The lawsuit specifically targets the Mission's executive director, Steve Whittaker.

The lawsuit was filed by a woman who worked at the mission for eight years.  She says Whitaker created an environment that was threatening and intimidating and assaulted her twice. 

Whitaker told The News On 6 he was shocked when he learned about the lawsuit, but mostly, just sad.

Jamie Bohannon says she was very excited when she first got hired at the mission, but then realized it was not the environment she was expecting.

"I'm thinking, okay, Lord, this will change, will get better, but it didn't.  It got worse and worse and worse," said Jamie Bohannon.

She says Whitaker scared her because he made it known he's an expert in karate, carried a gun and repeatedly reminded her she could be replaced.  She says she was talking to a donor on the phone last September when Whitaker got impatient and assaulted her.

"He walked up and said, ‘get off the phone.'  I was talking to this lady and he hit me on the back of my head, hard," said Jamie Bohannon.

She says not long after that, he hit her on the head with file folders.  She says everything came to a head last month during a confrontation in Whitaker's office.

"I know people could hear him screaming and I could not get out and finally when he turned around and told me to leave, I opened the door and ran out of that office," said Jamie Bohannon.

Bohannon says she was so upset; she filed a police report, resigned and has never been back.

"I would say the allegations are not true," said John 3:16 Mission Executive Director Steve Whitaker.

Whitaker says he can't address the specific complaints because of the lawsuit, but he says he's tried to create a caring and loving work place consistent with the mission's faith.  He says he hopes to put the situation behind them quickly and get back to the business of helping Tulsa's homeless and hungry.

"Honestly, Lori, I would love to talk to you about every detail of it, I just can't talk to you about it. At some point, if it's proper, I will sit down and talk to you about it.  At this point, I cannot," said Steve Whitaker.

Bohannon's lawsuit seeks more than $10,000 in both actual and punitive damages, which is standard.