Oregon fire chief accused of sexual harassment loses job
The city of Dundee has reached a settlement with a female firefighter who alleged that former Fire Chief John Stock had subjected her to years of sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination with the city's knowledge.
In the settlement — referred to as a conciliation agreement by the Bureau of Labor and Industry, the state agency who investigated the firefighter's claims for more than a year — the city agrees to pay the woman $180,000 and not retaliate or discriminate against the woman, who continues to work as a firefighter, for the complaints filed against the city in December 2019 and May 2020.
"It is understood and agreed that this agreement is not construed as an admission of liability on the part of (the city), but is a compromise of disputed claims," according to the conciliation agreement. The agreement is heavily redacted so as to not reveal the name of the complainant who filed the claim with BOLI.
The settlement came about after the agency came to a "substantial evidence determination," described by BOLI official Duke Shepard as meaning "there was an investigation and BOLI found relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion (e.g. enough evidence for BOLI to pursue enforcement action).
"A conciliation agreement basically means parties mutually agreed to a resolution of the case," he added.
The agreement comes on the heels of a BOLI ruling in a third case against the city in January. In that case BOLI determined that even though there was evidence that Stock had indeed discriminated and harassed the woman, and that the city had failed to take action to properly address the situation, the statute of limitations made it impossible to go forward and the complaint was dismissed.
In the complaint that was subsequently dismissed, the firefighter alleged that Stock refused to pay firefighters overtime, engaged in gender discrimination and sexual harassment against her, and interfered with her ability to receive medical treatment and financial compensation for an injury suffered on the job. She further alleged that Stock inappropriately touched her, that she was subject to multiple instances of derogatory comments, and that her job security was held over her by superiors if she were to go forward with her allegations.
BOLI's investigation found similar allegations from other female firefighters that corroborated the complainant's allegations.
"The division has spoken to two other alleged victims of Chief Stock's sexual harassment," the dismissal memo, prepared by investigator Brittney Boggs, read. "One witness described conduct which mirrored the conduct described by complainant. Another victim was too afraid to speak to the division but confirmed similar allegations against Chief Stock. Additionally, the division spoke to another witness who has worked at the fire station for over a decade, who confirmed other instances of egregious behavior by Chief Stock.
"Thus the division finds that complainant was the victim of severe and pervasive sexual harassment perpetrated by Chief Stock. Additionally, the evidence supports that Chief Stock's behavior was known to the fire station and the city going back years, to when Chief Stock was removed from the police department for similar behavior. It is clear that the city and the city manager had an obligation to (the) complainant and other female firefighters with regards to the predatory behavior by Chief Stock, and that the city failed to take corrective action."
Stock relieved of his duties
The BOLI complaints were filed against Stock in 2019 and the city placed him on paid administrative leave in March of 2020 as the investigation by BOLI ensued. His leave ended several months later.
"The city of Dundee terminated employment of John Stock effective Aug. 20, 2020," City Manager Rob Daykin said in an email.
The city contracted with an assistant chief in the McMinnville Fire Department, Amy Hanifan, to serve as interim chief for a number of months before contracting with the Western Fire Chiefs Association to bring on Brent VanKeulen to serve as chief. Stock's duties on the Yamhill County Fire Defense Board were assumed by Fred Hertel, the fire chief responsible for Sheridan and western Yamhill County.
In April of this year the city initiated a process with the aid of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, which helped the city build a profile of what they were looking for in a new chief, as well as advertise the position, Daykin said. The city formed a committee to review the eight applications it received, interviewed five and will next meet with the City Council to review the top applicants.
Cost to the city
CityCounty Insurance Services, which negotiated on behalf of the city during the BOLI investigation, will pay $170,000 of the $180,000 settlement, with the city paying a $10,000 deductible.
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