Kulongoski says state bar complaint has no merit


Gov. Ted Kulongoski says a complaint filed with the Oregon State Bar claiming he knew about former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt sexually abusing a teenage girl has no merit.

"None," Kulongoski said emphatically during a brief news conference Thursday.

The governor also apologized for walking away from a news conference earlier this week when asked about the complaint filed by Portland talk radio show host Lars Larson.

The complaint alleges Kulongoski was told about Goldschmidt sexually abusing the girl in the 1970s before the abuse was made public in 2004 &

a claim Kulongoski has repeatedly denied.

The abuse was revealed as Goldschmidt was preparing to lead the sale of Portland General Electric to a Texas company offering to buy the utility from bankrupt Enron Corp. The sale eventually collapsed and Goldschmidt retired from public life.

Larson alleges in the complaint that Kulongoski was told about the abuse by a former Goldschmidt speechwriter, Fred Leonhardt, who in turn learned about it from Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto.

Leonhardt has said he told Kulongoski about the abuse as early as 1992, and again in 1994, at a party held by Goldschmidt's ex-wife.

Goldschmidt was governor in the late 1980s, when Giusto was an Oregon State Police officer who served as a bodyguard and driver.

Giusto is under investigation by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to determine whether he ever lied publicly about his knowledge of the abuse.

When asked about the bar complaint Tuesday, Kulongoski walked away from a news conference on TOPOFF, the national terrorism exercise under way this week in Portland.

On Thursday, just before a similar news conference on TOPOFF, Kulongoski drew reporters aside and apologized but said he could not comment on the bar complaint &

saying only that it had no merit.

"I think it's inappropriate for me to talk about that process as long as they're reviewing it," Kulongoski said, adding that "I'm going to cooperate in any way they want."

He also said that, "as you can well imagine, it's a difficult time both for me and my family."

The governor is a former state lawmaker who also served as state attorney general and as an Oregon Supreme Court justice, making him the first governor to serve in all three branches of state government: legislative, judicial and executive.

The state bar investigates every complaint it receives but there are several stages to determine whether a complaint has any merit, said bar spokeswoman Kateri Walsh.

The first step is an initial review. If there is enough to warrant a more thorough investigation, the complaint will be referred to the bar's disciplinary counsel. If the counsel forwards the complaint, the next stage would be the State Professional Responsibility Board, which also investigates, Walsh said.

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