Sexual harassment alleged
By Stephanie Johns
Allegations of sexual harassment dating back to 2010 have been made against Morgan County Commissioner Mack Bohlen by a female county employee.
At Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners’ (BOC) work session, County Manager Michael Lamar passed out copies of a 2012 “Workplace Investigation” report, prepared for the county at the direction of County Attorney Christian Henry and dated Oct. 8, by Investigator Jennifer Keaton of One Mediation.
The report alleges Bohlen’s sexual harrassment of said employee started Nov. 16, 2010, when then-BOC Chairman Bohlen grabbed the employee’s breast and then followed the employee to her house.
The following morning, Bohlen allegedly apologized to the employee following her arrival at the BOC office and said that he had “crossed the line.”
The employee also alleged that later, following the Nov. 16, 2010 incident, Bohlen grabbed her hand and “pulled it towards his genitals,” the report states, an effort to “intentionally draw a reaction from [the employee] by intentionally trying to make her feel uncomfortable.”
Also following the Nov. 16, 2010 incident, the employee alleged that Bohlen “pulled on [the employee's] collar with the purported desire to have an unobstructed view of [the employee's] breasts,” the report states.
Further, the report states, Bohlen frequently made comments sexual in nature that the employee found offensive, allegedly including: starting a phone conversation with "What's up, Hotlips?"; suggesting a "full frontal hug" because they'd known each other for years; asking what color the employee's underwear was; and making several references to the employee's breasts.
The employee told higher ranking co-workers about the alleged incidents weeks after they occurred, but asked them "not to investigate the matter until she felt the County's intervention was needed." These co-wokers obliged, checking on the employee's well-being periodically.
Apparently, the employee was prompted to file the formal complaint in Aug. 16, 2012 after learning that Bohlen planned to run for re-election.
In March 2011, the county held an “Anti-sexual Harassment Training” that Bohlen, as well as other employees, attended.
The report states that after the training, Bohlen’s "conduct wavered between respectful and taunting with respect to [the employee]." Apparently, Bohlen asked the employee if she was "going to be my friend anymore?" and criticized her work performance, among other things.
Interviews with several county employees – eight in total, including the employee who filed the complaint – confirm Bohlen's alleged misconduct, the report states, and the employee who filed the complaint also offered to take a polygraph test.
The report states: “Two of these witnesses proffered information that suggests that Mr. Bohlen admitted certain misconduct to them.”
In one instance, the report states: “...Mr. Bohlen disclosed to Mr. Lamar he did touch [the employee's] breast, but that he did not ‘grab’ her breast.”
Despite being asked to participate in person and in writing, Bohlen never took part in answering these allegations.
According to Investigator Keaton, who completed the report on Oct. 8, Bohlen was asked for an in-person interview with Keaton on to answer the allegations. Bohlen, through his legal counsel, Michael Gailey, refused the request but did offer to complete approximately 45 questions in writing. However, those questions were not completed, either.
“Mr. Bohlen, therefore, did not rebut any of the allegations or deny the allegations made against him in the course of the investigation,” the report states.
The Morgan County Citizen attempted to reach Bohlen for comment at his home via phone following the BOC work session and called meeting Tuesday night, however no one answer the telephone.
At Tuesday's work session, in addition to the report, Lamar handed out copies of a list of restrictions on Bohlen’s behavior as he continues to fulfill his obligations as county commissioner.
The memorandum stipulates that: Bohlen must refrain from all direct contact with the employee–all contact must go through Lamar, he may not be present at the county office save for BOC meetings or work sessions, he must refrain from participating in or voting on any measure regarding her or her employment and he may not take any "adverse action" against anyone he believes or knows to have participated in the investigation. The county will deliver to him the necessary materials he needs to execute his position as commissioner.
If Bohlen does not abide by these terms, the county may still censure him and/or file in Morgan County Superior Court to have him removed from the BOC. However, this is largely symbolic because there are only two months left for Bohlen’s term–he's off the BOC after December.
The county is not pursuing charges against Bohlen.
“This has been a gut-wrenching and horrible experience for everyone involved and it’s a sad day for Morgan County,” said Lamar.
Measures have been taken to protect the employee.
The full report–employee names redacted–will be available for view on the Citizen's Facebook page by the end of the week.
Editor Patrick Yost and Managing Editor Kathryn Schiliro contributed to this story.
Printed in the October 18, 2012 edition