The manager of Spokane County’s Interstate Fairgrounds sexually harassed one of the woman security guards there, an internal investigation has found.
Paul Gillingham used his position as fair manager to get the woman a job she had no experience in, a county report states, and then visited her eight times in the middle of the night when she was working alone.
“I have not harassed anybody,” said Gillingham, contacted at his 404 N. Havana office Wednesday.
He said the woman, security officer Carol Dionne, still is employed at the fairgrounds and “is a valued member of our staff.”
Gillingham’s supervisor, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Fran Boxer, refused to discuss specifics of the case.
“But one thing I want to make clear is that we will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment,” Boxer said.
She said she will refer the investigative findings to commissioners next week. It is not known whether Gillingham, named fair manager in November 1994, will be disciplined.
Another county administrator, Risk Manager Claude Cox, was suspended without pay for three days earlier this month for cronyism and lying during an investigation into the improper hiring of a friend.
In Gillingham’s case, county investigators found his behavior, while not overtly sexual, constituted sexual harassment by creating a hostile work environment.
Dionne, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, kept a log of Gillingham’s surprise visits, according to the investigative report obtained by The Spokesman-Review.
On Jan. 5, Gillingham’s “speech was slurred, he had jerky body movements, drank several cups of coffee and sucked on sugar cubes,” Dionne’s supervisor, Glen Bower, wrote to investigators.
Gillingham’s response Wednesday: “I have not had a drink in 10 years.”
Dionne, who started work Oct. 7 as a temporary employee, felt “intimidated” and “frightened” by Gillingham’s behavior and his references to his sex life and a failed relationship with a fiancee, wrote investigator Chris Johnson of the county Human Resources Department.
So concerned about what she perceived as Gillingham’s advances, Dionne told investigators she began carrying Mace to protect herself.
When Gillingham later tried to cut Dionne’s hours, she believed he wanted “sex and when he didn’t get it, he was done with her,” the report states.
Gillingham said security officers set their own hours through a lottery system.
“I did not make eight unannounced visits,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been slandered and harassed. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
According to the report, Gillingham had been “watching” Dionne during last fall’s Interstate Fair when she was a ticket taker.
A security supervisor told county officials that Gillingham told him, “Do whatever you have to do, get her hired” as a guard even though she had no security experience, the investigator wrote. Dionne did not know Gillingham and wondered about his interest in her, the report states.
About a month after she started work, Gillingham made his first, unannounced visit to “turn off more lights and turn off the heat,” Dionne told the investigator.
The late-night visits continued. Dionne told the investigator that Gillingham said his fiancee had moved out of his bedroom and into the basement and that their relationship was over.
On a Dec. 9 visit, Dionne put Gillingham to work moving furniture to occupy him, the report states. “I’m alone and he acts different,” she told the investigator.
When asked what she meant by “different,” Dionne responded: “He was coming on to me.”
On Dec. 16, Gillingham showed up at a security staff Christmas party even though he said earlier he had other plans.
In early January, a teary-eyed Dionne told her supervisor, Bower, “I want to walk away, I want to quit” because of Gillingham’s visits.
“It was reasonable of Ms. Dionne to feel threatened by Mr. Gillingham’s repeated visits to her after his work hours, particularly when Mr. Gillingham spoke of his personal life and problems at home,” the report states.
A worker last year accused Gillingham, whose pay range is $36,768 to $49,620 a year, and other county workers of playing computer games on taxpayer time. The games were later removed from computers.
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