Sexual harassment probe involves state official

PORTLAND — Oregon's labor commissioner said Thursday a sexual harassment investigation was under way involving the former director of the state agency that trains and certifies law enforcement officers.

The state attorney general has concluded that John Minnis couldn't be convicted in a criminal case. But Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said his agency would investigate under state employment discrimination laws.

An employee accused Minnis of harassing her for more than a year. Minnis has said there was flirting and consensual sexual touching.

Minnis, former head the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, did not return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

He is a former Portland police officer and state legislator, and is the husband of former Oregon House Speaker Karen Minnis.

Avakian filed a complaint alleging John Minnis "subjected a female employee to severe and persistent sexual harassment that included requests for sexual favors, unwelcome and inappropriate sexual contact, and persistent verbal advances," according to a statement from his office.

The woman's lawyer, Dana Sullivan, said Avakian's action was unusual because aggrieved employees usually file such complaints. Sullivan said her client has not filed any civil actions.

An investigator for the Civil Rights Division of the labor agency will work the case, which could land before an administrative law judge.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed Minnis in 2004 to head the training department. In November, Kulongoski demanded his resignation.

Attorney General John Kroger decided in December not to pursue charges against Minnis but sent the case to the San Diego Police Department because the woman told investigators harassment occurred on out-of-town trips.

A call to the department was not immediately returned.

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