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News >  Idaho

Former state employee contends sexual, racial harassment

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 20, 2017

Associated Press

BOISE – A former employee at the Idaho State Controller’s Office says she was sexually and racially harassed by a supervisor and that State Controller Brandon Woolf allowed the harassment to continue.

In a seven-page tort claim filed Monday, the former employee says the agency’s former chief of staff, Dan Goicoechea, engaged in abusive language and violent acts in conversations involving her and other individuals.

According to the tort claim, the former employee was hired last year as Woolf’s deputy legal counsel and executive assistant but says she was never allowed to serve fully in that role because Goicoechea took over her duties.

“(The employee) was horrified to discover what many of her co-workers already knew, that Mr. Goicoechea often demeaned and degraded women and minorities,” wrote Lauren Scholnick, the Boise attorney representing the former employee, in the tort claim.

The tort claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. The state has 90 days to respond. Goicoechea did not respond to requests for comment.

The claim outlines a long list of racial and sexual allegations, including Goicoechea inside the office repeating gossip insinuating that state Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, “with her crazy eyes, she should be in porn.”

Goicoechea also allegedly boasted about his sexual escapades with current or previous subordinate women, while giving women lower raises and promotions for female staff members.

“(The employee), along with other female employees, overheard these vulgarities and understood that neither Mr. Goicoechea nor the male administrators in the office that laughed along with him regarded the women they worked with as professionals, only as sexual objects,” the tort claim states.

Furthermore, the tort goes on to allege that Goicoechea made discriminating statements about various ethnicities in front of employees and once punched a hole in the wall inside the Controller’s office after learning his daughter was readmitted to the hospital – a separate employee later put a picture frame over the hole.

The tort claims explains that the allegations will be dropped if Goicoechea no longer serves in a supervisory role in state government, the Controller’s office undergoes harassment and discrimination training and if the former employee receives a $191,500 payment.

Goicoechea resigned earlier this year to become deputy for governmental affairs for the Idaho State Department of Education. He resigned from that post on Monday. Education officials declined to comment on Goicoechea’s resignation, citing it’s a confidential personnel matter.

“The Office of the State Controller denies the allegations in the tort claim filing, and specifically denies any allegations that it ‘condoned’ harassment in any way, and will defend against those allegations vigorously,” said Woolf’s office in a prepared statement.

Woolf is up for re-election in 2018.

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