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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Worker who settled harassment complaint against state controller’s office speaks out

Lourdes Matsumoto (Betsy Russell)
Lourdes Matsumoto (Betsy Russell)

The young woman who yesterday settled her sexual and racial harassment claim against the Idaho state controller’s office spoke out today, saying she’s pleased with the settlement and hopes her story helps others who face workplace harassment. “There is definitely an opportunity for employers to do the right thing,” said Lourdes Matsumoto. “My notice of claim is a small contribution to the national dialogue. I think it’s especially important here locally. What my situation shows is that no workplace is immune to this sort of thing.”

Matsumoto was in her first job out of law school at the controller’s office, she said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I just had this gut feeling all along: This isn’t right.”

As part of the settlement, state Controller Brandon Woolf agreed to refrain from rehiring the supervisor who harassed Matsumoto, to provide training to employees in the office, and to pay her a cash settlement of $83,000. In a statement yesterday, Woolf said, “As a leader, the responsibility to set the tone for our team and environment ultimately rests with me. I believe everyone must be treated with respect and valued for their hard work, and any form of workplace harassment or behavior that makes anyone uncomfortable is not acceptable.”

Woolf's chief of staff, Dan Goicoechea, resigned from the controller’s office earlier this year and joined the staff of state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra; on the day that Matsumoto’s tort claim was filed against him, he resigned from the state.

“I really thing the problem came down to an individual,” Matsumoto said today. “He’s not there now. The employer has done the right thing.” She added, “They have taken this seriously. I appreciate the statement that they put out yesterday.”

Matsumoto noted that her claim was filed shortly before the “#metoo” movement broke out nationwide. While she said it was “really scary” to come forward, she’s found the “metoo” campaign empowering. “I’ve had friends from as far away as New York tell me I have inspired them,” she said. “There is a reckoning – this behavior isn’t tolerated anymore.”

The young woman has since found new employment at a law firm, and said she’s ready to move on. “I just hope that I can somehow help anyone who is going through something similar,” she said. “To know that you’re not alone out there is really important.”

Matsumoto said Goecoechea never apologized to her for his behavior. While saying she hoped never to have to talk to him again, she said an apology would be meaningful to her. "I would hope it would mean that he changed," she said.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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