Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management has been fielding one crisis after another in recent weeks. Given that the Office’s stated role is to help Oregon’s state and local leaders prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies, it is ironic that the messes currently facing the department are all internal, manmade, personnel concerns. First [link to “Union Alleges that Emergency Management Director Committed Unfair Labor Practices”] was a public employees’ union, the AFSCME, lodging a pair of complaint against the Office’s Director, Martin Plotner, for allegedly discriminating against employees who are active in the union. Now the office and its overseeing department are facing a public sexual harassment scandal.
According to a report in the Statesman Journal, Brigadier General Mike Caldwell, the Deputy Director of the Oregon Military Department, is currently facing the accusation that he sexually harassed a female subordinate in the Office of Emergency Management, which the Military Department oversees. The Emergency Management employee has not made a formal complaint, but she has written a letter to the Department of Administrative Services detailing Caldwell’s inappropriate behavior toward her.
The employee alleges that, on May 8, when she was attending an emergency preparedness conference at the Hood River Best Western hotel, she was sitting in the hotel bar with a number of other people. Caldwell, seemingly inebriated, joined the group at the bar and mentioned the employee’s name several times. Though she could not hear what Caldwell was saying, she kept receiving odd looks from the other people in the group who could hear him. He also came up to her, and, taking her hand, tried to slip his room key to her. Finally, Caldwell sent the employee several inappropriate texts throughout the night and well into the next day; first, he kept mentioning how “cool” she was and how much he “adored” her. Around midnight, he texted her to say that he had a bottle of wine in his room “with [her] name on it.” His final text to the employee, on May 9, simply said, “Did I piss u off?”
Caldwell had informed his superiors of his intention to retire in March, before these alleged events occurred, and had submitted the required paperwork, but had not decided on an official retirement date. When Oregon’s adjutant general, Major General Raymond Rees, questioned Caldwell about the allegations contained in the letter, he responded by setting his retirement for July 1st and agreeing to go on medical leave. According to Captain Stephen Bomar, the spokesperson for the Oregon Military Department, since the Office of Emergency Management employee has not made a formal complaint or a lawsuit against Caldwell, the Military Department has no current plans to undertake a formal investigation into the matter.
Though it seems that Caldwell will escape with almost no consequences for his grossly inappropriate behavior, it remains to be seen if the Emergency Management employee does decide to take more formal action against him, in the form of a complaint or a lawsuit. If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed by a co-worker, please get in touch with one of our attorneys, who will help you fight for your rights.