Minnis scandal eclipses legacy
- Shannon Wells
- Gresham Outlook - News
East County leaders ponder what happened to Minnis 'dynasty'
Although not of his own doing, John Minnis entered Oregon politics on the coattails of controversy.
Minnis was appointed to Oregon's District 20 House seat in 1985 after voters recalled Republican Pat Gillis, who admitted to falsifying letters of support as well as his résumé.
Despite the less-than-illustrious beginning, Minnis, a Republican from Wood Village, served in office until term limits forced his retirement in 1998. The call to public service extended to Minnis' wife, Karen, who served as Oregon House speaker from 2003 to 2006.
Documents released earlier this week revealed Minnis' intimate relationship with a subordinate employee at the state's safety training agency.
Under pressure from Gov. Ted Kulongoski, he resigned in late November. With the state attorney general's office deferring further investigation to California authorities, Minnis' long career of public service appears to have run its course.
Clark County, Wash., records reveal the Minnises purchased a five-bedroom, five bath, 4,639-square foot house in Camas, Wash. - valued at $827,600 - in late September, putting another period on the couple's public life in Oregon.
What the future holds for the family, which allied itself with conservative Christian values in sometimes-contentious political races, is anybody's guess.
Current and former East Multnomah County movers and shakers, if inclined to comment at all, say they're baffled by the public downfall of a once-mighty political family.
District 25 Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, said she's disheartened by John Minnis' recent revelations.
'I get so discouraged,' she said on Friday, Dec. 11. 'What is it we don't know about ourselves that makes people make the decisions they do? I've been too busy taking care of my family and earning a living. In a sense it's hard to relate to.'
Despite differences in political parties and positions, Monnes Anderson admired the couple's political experience and acumen.
'Through the Legislature, that's how I got to know them,' she said. 'They certainly had an expertise when they first started that I didn't have. I was always looking to them to learn about the system.'
Former Troutdale Mayor Paul Thalhofer, a Democrat who once ran unsuccessfully against John Minnis, said whatever anyone thinks about the Minnises, their political power in the past two decades was undeniable.
'It's hard for me to say anything bad about them,' he said. 'They formed a Minnis dynasty. As long as one or the other was running, they won. They could raise more money than any lowly Democrat could hope to raise.'
Monnes Anderson said she was bothered by some of John Minnis' campaign tactics.
In a 1988 race against Portland physician and gay-rights supporter Estill Deitz, Minnis supported a ballot measure that would revoke a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. He decried Deitz' fundraising as being inordinately from gay- and lesbian-based organizations.
'It does bug me,' Monnes Anderson said of the disconnect between politicians' behavior and their subsequent actions. 'But I can't be a judge. It's pervasive. It's not just politicians. Look at Tiger Woods. It's everywhere.'
Attorney general will not pursue Minnis case
Because behavior involving a subordinate employee occurred in another state, the Oregon attorney general's office said it lacks sufficient evidence to prosecute the former director of the state's police training agency.
John Minnis, a Wood Village resident, resigned his post in late November as a criminal investigation was launched against him. He told investigators he pursued an intimate relationship with a female employee of the Department of Public Safety and Standards Training.
The employee, whose name has not been released, claimed unwanted advances from Minnis started more than a year ago, but intensified during a work-related trip to San Diego in early November. Concluding there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Minnis, the attorney general's office said it forwarded its findings to San Diego Police and offered to cooperate if the department pursued an investigation.
Sean Riddell, chief counsel of the attorney general's office, explained the department's position in a letter to Eriks Gabliks, interim director of the training agency and former deputy director under Minnis.
'It is our opinion that we cannot prove Mr. Minnis committed any criminal acts as Director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training,' Riddell wrote. 'Mr. Minnis admitted to conduct that occurred outside of our jurisdiction that we do not have the authority to decline or accept prosecution.'
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, a San Diego Police spokeswoman told The Outlook the department had not received information regarding the case and no investigation is pending.
The attorney general's office informed Minnis of its decision on Monday, Dec. 7, a day before the Department of Justice released documents related to the case.
A certified law-enforcement officer since 1977, Minnis voluntarily surrendered his certification, eliminating the need for a revocation process, according to records.
Calls to Minnis' personal cell phone were not returned by press time. Minnis' former assistant in the training agency referred inquiries to Gabliks, who was unavailable to take the call.
Records reveal that Minnis' aggressive behavior toward the female employee, who admitted to excessive drinking, started during a 2008 business trip to Bend. The woman said Minnis' groping of her in a hot tub one evening led to flirting and unsolicited sexual advances. Despite repeatedly emphasizing to Minnis that she was happily married and not interested, she said the behavior persisted in the workplace and on other work-related excursions, including the San Diego trip.
Minnis, who is married to former Republican Speaker of the House Karen Minnis, admitted as much, but denied ever having intercourse with his employee. He described incidents involving 'kissing' and 'touching' and other intimate acts as always 'consensual,' adding that neither of them was ever too inebriated to realize what was happening.
'Everything, everything that we did was consensual,' he told investigators in a recorded interview. 'There was no time where she was not aware of or … didn't participate in the activity between the two of us.'
However, documents reveal the woman described waking up one morning, after drinking with Minnis in the San Diego hotel where they had separate rooms, wearing only her underwear. She asked him if he'd done anything sexual and she said he assured her he wouldn't do anything without 'permission.'
Increasingly upset about the incidents - to the point of wanting to quit her job - she went to Gabliks and other managers with a recorded phone conversation between herself and Minnis.
Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski placed Minnis, a Republican, on administrative leave Monday, Nov. 23, the same day the attorney general's office opened its investigation. When Minnis tendered his resignation effective Jan. 1, 2010, the governor called for his immediate resignation, according to a spokeswoman in the governor's office.
Minnis was appointed to Pat Gillis' District 20 seat in the Oregon Legislature in December 1985 after Gillis was recalled amidst a civil lawsuit filed by Rep. Annette Farmer. The suit was settled out of court. Minnis served until 1998, when term limits forced his retirement.
His wife served as Oregon House speaker from 2003 to 2006.