Report omits conclusion
Faculty want to know about probe of sexual-harassment allegations.
Kansas City Star, The (MO)-September 22, 2006
Author: MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM and EDIE HALL
JOHNSON COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE | Lawyer’s inquiry released
A report released Thursday on an investigation into sexual-harassment allegations against former Johnson County Community College President Charles Carlsen does not draw any conclusions on whether harassment occurred.
The board in May asked Kansas City lawyer Betsy Badger to conduct an independent investigation of allegations made by Human Resources Manager Teresa Lee and published in the student newspaper on April 13. The alleged incidents happened between May and November 2003.
The 12-page report said that Lee followed college procedures related to sexual harassment and that the matter had been dealt with in November 2003.
Carlsen, who called for the review the day the allegations were published and retired a week later, released a statement Thursday night. He said that he had reviewed the report and had nothing to say beyond what he said when he retired. He said he had done nothing wrong.
“I am pleased that the college will now be able to move forward with its important work without further distraction,” he said in the statement Thursday.
But Lee said she was disappointed with the report.
“I m just very surprised that this is the result of all of that work,” she said.
Badger presented the report to trustees at their regular meeting. Her firm billed the college $377,390 through Sept. 3 for the work. Trustees declined to comment on the report, saying they had not had an opportunity to read it.
Others who filled the board room and spilled into the hallway wanted more information.
“This isn’t what I expected,” said associate business professor Katie Ghahramani. “I thought it would be more complete and more of a narrative of what happened. It’s just he-said, she-said, and that’s nothing really new.”
Faculty members also were concerned that the report didn’t appear to address trustees knowledge of the matter.
“When did they become aware of this, and what did they know?” said history professor Michael Hembree.
The report was not the sum of Badger’s work.
“Our legal analysis, advice and communications with representatives of the Board about the Lee/Carlsen matter are not included here,” the report said. “The engagement also included legal analysis, advice and review of other personnel and policy matters also not included here.”
According to the report, Badger and her associate conducted scores of interviews. Many were reluctant to talk because they feared the board would learn who had made negative comments about Carlsen or the college.
Carlsen was initially cooperative, the report said. He denied all of Lee’s allegations of misconduct. He gave Badger access to his college computer and personal papers.
But on the advice of his lawyer Carlsen suspended his participation in the review on July 13, and canceled a scheduled second interview.
Lee didn’t respond immediately to Badger’s request for an interview. When she did, she answered nearly all of the questions though she declined to answer some and declined to provide some information. She also declined to give Badger access to her college-owned computer.
The report said a narrative written by Lee said Carlsen touched her breast with his elbow or forearm five times between May and November of 2003. Carlsen denied that he ever touched her breast.
Lee confronted Carlsen on Nov. 10, 2003, telling him it made her uncomfortable when he stood too close to her. They agreed that she didn’t confront him with a specific claim that he had touched her breast.
Lee told the attorneys that she counted on Carlsen to know what she meant.
A second meeting that appeared to end discussion of the matter included Lee, Carlsen, human resources director Dorothy Friedrich and special assistant to the president, Susan Lindahl. Friedrich and Lindahl are now vice presidents.
Trustees initially said they would not release the report publicly, a decision that drew sharp criticism from faculty.
After trustees this summer met twice with Badger behind closed doors for interim reports, chairman Lynn Mitchelson said the report would be released to the public.
Before the meeting, trustee Ben Hodge said he expected that the report would please few people.
“If people are looking for conclusions, or who’s guilty and who’s innocent, that’s not our role and it wasn’t our intent,” he said.
Timeline of events
April 13: The Campus Ledger publishes an article alleging that college President Charles Carlsen sexually harassed a female employee in 2003. Carlsen denies the allegations in the newspaper article.
He issues a written statement calling for an independent third-party investigation of the allegation and announcing that he will take a voluntary leave of absence until the process is concluded. April 20: Carlsen abruptly announces his retirement, saying he has done nothing wrong. Trustees accept his retirement in a special meeting.
April 26: After meeting behind closed doors for 3 hours, trustees choose Betsy Badger of the Kansas City law firm Badger and Levings to conduct the independent review. Sept. 21: Trustees receive Badger’s report during their regular monthly meeting.
@ For the text of the report, go to KansasCity.com
To reach Melodee Hall Blobaum, call (816) 234-7733 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org carlsen22_09-22-2006_E1O41AM.xml
Record Number: 1968979
Copyright 2006 The Kansas City Star Co.