By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Chemeketa ordered to release settlement terms in Lanning case

SALEM — Patrick Lanning, who lost his No. 2 post at Chemeketa Community College after a fellow employee claimed he sexually assaulted her, received another $38,391 from Chemeketa when he agreed not to sue the school for wrongful termination.

The college refused to release terms of the settlement initially, but the McMinnville News-Register and Salem Statesman-Journal lodged appeals with the Marion County district attorney. He ordered the records released and the college complied.

Lanning, who served both as president of Chemeketa's Yamhill Valley Campus in McMinnville and as vice president and chief academic officer of the college as a whole, signed the agreement in late September.

It awards him three months of his former salary of $12,797 a month, or $38,391. In goes on to limit the college to releasing only the dates of his employment and positions he held if contacted for a reference.

While Lanning admits no wrongdoing, he agrees not to seek employment with Chemeketa or any arms of the school, such as its associated non-profit foundation. He also agrees not to sue the college or any of its employees, "excluding any employee who may have raised or raises any charge, claim or action against Lanning," according to the settlement document.

Lanning was fired June 30 following a four-month investigation into accusations he sexually assaulted the lower-ranking employee during an educational conference held at a Portland hotel in February. During Chemeketa's investigation, he admitted having a sexual encounter with the woman at the hotel, but said it was consensual and that she was the aggressor and he a reluctant participant.

According to documents released in connection with the case:

After a conference session on Thursday, Feb. 7, Lanning, the alleged victim and several other Chemeketa employees got together to discuss what they had learned, went to dinner, then returned to the hotel bar.

Throughout the evening, they drank alcohol, and the complainant says Lanning encouraged her to drink faster and drink more, even ordering more drinks for her. In the bar, she says, he rubbed her back and touched her under the table.

Other employees noticed how close they were sitting and told investigators they thought it was inappropriate, especially given their roles at the college and the fact that both are married.

The woman left the bar about 11:30 p.m., saying she was upset. She was escorted to her room by another male employee. He and a female employee talked with her about what she claimed to have happened and left her locked in her room alone.

In the morning, she says, she awoke naked with vague memories of Lanning being in the room and engaging her in sexual behavior.

During the investigation, Lanning admitted to the intimate behavior in the bar, but asserted that it wasn't sexual harassment because college policy allows consensual relationships. He also admitted to going to her room, which led to further intimate behavior, but said she enticed him by providing her room number.

He said he went to check on her because he was concerned about the amount of alcohol she had consumed. When she opened the door, he said, she told him it was too hot, so he went in to turn down the thermostat for her.

At that point, he claims she threw herself at him, hugging him and pulling him down on the bed against his wishes. When he investigator asked why he didn't stop, Lanning said he "felt it would be disrespectful."

Following the conference, the woman called police and went to her local hospital for a rape investigation. Port of Portland police investigated, but the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office decided criminal prosecution was not warranted.

Lanning was placed on paid leave following the woman's complaint to the college. He ended up collecting more than $50,000 in salary and benefits before the investigation wound up June 26, and the settlement adds almost $40,000 to that.

In July, he threatened to sue for wrongful termination, defamation and failure to pay wages.

If he had sued instead of settling, it would have meant a lengthy legal entanglement for the college. Such civil suits can stretch on for years, racking up many thousands of dollars in attorney fees.

The settlement winds up nearly seven months of discussion over Lanning's status. However, fallout from the incident continues, as the alleged victim filed suit Sept. 24, seeking millions in compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, counseling fees, pain and suffering and punitive damages.

The woman claims the incident led her to quit her job with the college in June. She is asking the judge to triple any award handed down by a jury, pushing the potential maximum payout past the $14 million mark.

Lanning's job remains unfilled. So does the college presidency, as Cheryl Roberts left at the end of the 2013-14 school year to assume the presidency of a community college in Seattle.

Jim Eustrom is serving as interim president of the McMinnville campus. A permanent replacement may not be named until Chemeketa selects someone to replace Roberts.

Chief Financial Officer Julie Huckestein is serving as interim president while the college conducts a president search. She is expected to remain at the helm through the end of the current school year in June.

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