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Oregon Lottery chief accused of harassment, retaliation

Oregon LotteryOregon Lottery: Oregon Lottery chief accused of harassment, retaliation
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon state officials are looking into claims that the director of the Oregon Lottery sexually harassed a female manager, then retaliated against her when she spurned his advances.

According to allegations outlined in a letter by the woman's attorney, Lottery Director Larry Niswender made unwanted advances toward the manager, then put her on administrative leave after she and another manager at the Lottery became romantically involved.

Both employees were reinstated to their jobs after more than two months while the case was being investigated by the attorney general's office. Both were given disciplinary letters, however, and a list of "work expectations." An investigation paid for by the lottery suggested Niswender's actions would not be considered sexual harassment or retaliation.

In letters to Michael Jordan, director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, dated Sept. 16, Salem lawyer William Stark served notice that the woman, Sarah Meyer, and her colleague, Martin Wooldridge, may file charges against the state. The letter asks for an investigation "into the conduct of the Lottery and the attorney general's office in this matter."

Amy Velez, a spokeswoman for Jordan, confirmed that the department would investigate the allegations. "That's all the information I can release at this time," Velez said.

Lottery officials so far have declined to comment, citing potential litigation. However, in response to a records request from The Oregonian, they released a heavily redacted investigative report. It concludes that Meyer and Wooldridge let their relationship get in the way of their jobs, including long conversations with each other on state-issued cell phones, a trip together to a conference at the coast and a habit of taking mutual sick leaves.

Stark called those conclusions a "fishing expedition" to try to pin something on his clients. The phone conversations were mostly work-related and a supervisor approved the conference, he said. "People have a right to have their romantic relationships."

The charges are a long way from being settled, but they point to trouble in the highest ranks of an agency that oversees most state-sponsored gambling in Oregon and contributes about $1 billion to the states two-year general fund budget.

Documents provided to The Oregonian by Stark detail a long and expensive legal battle within the Lottery that began last spring.

In April, the Lottery and the attorney general's office signed a contract with Portland lawyer Jill Goldsmith to investigate Meyer and Wooldridge after receiving complaints about their relationship. Both are longtime Lottery employees and managers in the information technology department.

Under the terms of the contract, Goldsmith was paid $180 an hour to look into the complaints by interviewing co-workers and reporting her findings. The total contract was for $25,000, although it's not clear how much the state has paid or owes Goldsmith for her work.

A few days after the contract was signed, Meyer and Wooldridge were put on administrative — or paid — leave pending results of the investigation. Meyer then filed a formal complaint alleging years of unwanted attention by Niswender when he was deputy director of the agency.

Among the allegations: Niswender used state e-mail and cell phone accounts to communicate with her on non-work-related topics. He called her personal phone and kept doing so after being asked to stop. He made "unwanted comments related to my appearance, which made me feel uncomfortable." He made several requests to meet for drinks.

She and Wooldridge hired Stark to represent them. In the letter to Jordan, Stark alleges that Meyer "was being retaliated against because she had resisted sexual advances of Mr. Niswender."

In addition to investigating Meyer and Wooldridge, Goldsmith was asked to look into Meyer's complaint against Niswender. The full results of the investigation have not been made public, but Meyer received a memo from Lottery Human Resources Manager Sharon Tietsort summarizing them.

"Some aspects of the factual allegations were supported by the evidence," Tietsort wrote in the July 22 memo, "while other allegations, including details associated with some events that occurred, were not."

The memo goes on to state that the conduct by Niswender "does not rise to the level of sexual harassment or retaliation."

Stark said he hopes an investigation by the Department of Administrative services will help clear the matter up. Despite being returned to their jobs, his clients "are still under the gun," he said

Oregonian

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7 comments. Last comment 3 years ago by rdgrnr.
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rdgrnr's avatar - walt
-Ridge Runner- Oracle of the Appalachians
Way back up in them dadgum hills, son!
United States
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Posted: October 3, 2011, 1:31 am - IP Logged

No Hanky-Panky

Make Boss Cranky


                                             
                     
                                         

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                   

"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

                                                                                            --Edmund Burke

 

 

    Avatar
    Orlando, FL
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    Posted: October 3, 2011, 5:46 am - IP Logged

    No Hanky-Panky

    Make Boss Cranky

    Green laugh

      LottoGuyBC's avatar - Lottery-050.jpg
      British Columbia
      Canada
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      September 4, 2011
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      Posted: October 3, 2011, 6:18 am - IP Logged

      No Hanky-Panky

      Make Boss Cranky

      Jester Laugh

      "You have to be in it to win it!"

        hearsetrax's avatar - 78638c467ef281febf24383e126f74b6

        United States
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        Posted: October 3, 2011, 7:16 am - IP Logged

        No Hanky-Panky

        Make Boss Cranky

        Yes Nod LOL

          sully16's avatar - sharan
          Listens to the wind
          Michigan
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          Posted: October 3, 2011, 8:42 am - IP Logged

          No Hanky-Panky

          Make Boss Cranky

           Green laughNo honey, No money

          There's only one US Flag

            rdgrnr's avatar - walt
            -Ridge Runner- Oracle of the Appalachians
            Way back up in them dadgum hills, son!
            United States
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            April 28, 2009
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            Posted: October 3, 2011, 11:17 pm - IP Logged

             Green laughNo honey, No money

            And that's the name of that tune...   Naughty


                                                         
                                 
                                                     

             

             

             

             

                                                                                                               

            "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

                                                                                                        --Edmund Burke

             

             

              rdgrnr's avatar - walt
              -Ridge Runner- Oracle of the Appalachians
              Way back up in them dadgum hills, son!
              United States
              Member #73904
              April 28, 2009
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              Offline
              Posted: October 3, 2011, 11:22 pm - IP Logged

              Willy said it more diplomatically though:

               

              If you got the money, honey

              I got the time

              We'll go honky-tonkin

              And we'll have us a time

              Bring along yo Cadillac

              Leave my ol' wreck behind

              If you got the money, honey

              I got the time


                                                           
                                   
                                                       

               

               

               

               

                                                                                                                 

              "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

                                                                                                          --Edmund Burke