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Investigator Interviews Gov. Lowry

Gov. Mike Lowry has been interviewed by the attorney who is investigating allegations that Lowry sexually harassed his former deputy press secretary, Susanne Albright.

A report from investigator Mary Alice Theiler is expected soon, possibly within a week, said Kent Caputo, the governor’s legal counsel.

Caputo also said the governor’s office is trying to make the best of a traumatic experience by revising office policy on how to handle complaints of sexual harassment. Since Albright did not avail herself of the interoffice process of filing a complaint, it shows changes may be needed, he said.

More sexual harassment training may be indicated for the governor and the rest of the staff, Caputo said.

Theiler spent two hours interviewing the governor in Lowry’s Olympia office on Wednesday, Caputo confirmed.

“It was a very pleasant conversation,” he said, declining to further characterize the interview, which he attended.

Albright was interviewed several weeks ago for more than four hours. Her attorney, Larry Finegold, said the ground rules were that anything she told Theiler was fair game for the final report, including details of her allegations.

Finegold and Caputo said Friday that Theiler is nearing the completion of the investigation phase, but apparently still needs to interview several members of the governor’s State Patrol security detail. Then comes the writing of the report she will release to the governor’s office.

“She wants to get done by next week,” Finegold said.

“She has done a great deal of work on this review process and I anticipate she will need … a week or more to prepare the report. It is apparent that she has put in a significant amount of time to do a fair and thorough job.

“It is pro bono (donated time), and a major contribution to the people of the state. She is to be commended. Anytime we have had a conversation about the process, she has made it clear she is put a great deal of time into this.”

He said he and Theiler haven’t discussed specifics on how the report will be presented to the governor’s office, and that he isn’t certain how much time it will take to review it before releasing it to the public.

“I don’t anticipate that will take a great deal of time, but I obviously haven’t seen it and don’t know what redaction (blocking out names or passages) issues there will be to deal with the attorney general’s office.

“I am hopeful most of those decisions (about disclosure) will be made by the people involved, at the report level.”

In a perfect world, the entire report would be released, Finegold said.

Caputo said the current case points out a problem with the sexual harassment reporting process in the governor’s office - and possibly elsewhere in government and the private sector.

“By definition, the process did not work this time,” he said. “This office will not hide behind process as a reason for problems not being solved, however. If your process doesn’t work, you should do something about it.

“You can write policies that fill volumes and talk about how you hate a work environment that allows improper or uncomfortable activities, but if you don’t have a process that allows people to feel comfortable airing their concerns, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Caputo said it is “painful, stressful and disconcerting” to have sexual harassment cases like the current one surface.

“But at the very least we will learn from this and set something positive out of this,” he said.

Tags: ethics

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