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Police leadership under fire in claim

A tort claim filed on behalf of three Woodburn Police officers alleges the department’s leaders have created a hostile work environment and allowed reports of sexual harassment to be covered up and ignored.

The notice of tort claim, which is dated Nov. 18 and addressed to the city council and Mayor Kathy Figley, reports that WPD Capt. Jason Alexander has punished, suspended and demoted officers who questioned his actions and former Sgt. John Mikkola has gotten away with unsolicited sexual harassment.

Officer Jarrod Bowers filed the claim with Jeffrey H. Boiler, an attorney out of Springfield, on behalf of himself, Officer Peter Lichte and Officer Dan Kelly. All three officers are on active duty.

The notice of the claim states that Alexander harassed Bowers, publicly humiliated him with sexual suggestions and intentionally misrepresented his motives so as to suspend and demote him from detective.

“Capt. Alexander, Sgt. Mikkola and others over time abused the internal investigations process within the police department to punish those who interfered with their unbridled discretion,” the claim reads.

Some of Alexander’s alleged “unbridled discretion” discussed in the claim on behalf of Bowers includes casual review of a female abuse victim’s intimate photographs, interference with a female informant during an investigation and suggesting Bowers have sex with an informant.

“Most recently, he has been demoted from detective, suspended for three days without pay and returned to Patrol Division on graveyard shift, at permanent reduction in pay from his former rank,” the claim reads.

The claim also states that Mikkola, while drunk, attempted to have sex with Kelly’s girlfriend, after the couple had given him a ride home. Although a complaint was filed, it was concluded there were no policy violations or grounds for a criminal investigation, according to a statement from City Administrator Scott Derickson.

“The sexual misconduct allegations related to John Mikkola were subject to an internal personnel investigation nearly five years ago,” Derickson said. “Based on statements provided to the police department at that time by those involved, it was concluded there were no policy violations or grounds for a criminal investigation. Also, the alleged incident did not happen in the City of Woodburn.”

Derickson said Mikkola is an employee of the city currently on a non-disciplinary leave of absence.

Mikkola could not be reached for comment.

Lichte, the third officer mentioned in the claim, reportedly also was subject to unfounded personnel investigations. The statement says Lichte discovered drugs in his locked patrol vehicle shortly after being interviewed in a human resources investigation.

“He and command officers were the only ones known to have a key,”?Boiler said. “He didn’t put them there and hadn’t transported anyone who could’ve left them there. He reported this immediately last summer. No known action was taken on this issue.”

In addition to Bowers’ individual claim, the Woodburn Police Association has filed a grievance for Bowers’s transfer and demotion that is set for arbitration in late April, according to Boiler.

“The union agrees the conduct of the city is in violation of the contract with the union,” Boiler said, noting that the union is represented by Anil Karia of the Tedesco Law Group in Lake Oswego.

Boiler added a lawsuit will likely be filed in federal court by March.

Pending potential litigation, Derickson said he couldn’t comment on specific personnel matters.

“The city respects the rights of all people, including those that raise concerns or allegations and those people who are accused,” Derickson said. “Our duty is to administer process, determine the facts and take appropriate action.”

Click here to read the entire report.



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