Investigation done, but Lanning case not settled
Chemeketa’s then-president, Cheryl Roberts, placed Lanning on paid leave after another college employee accused him of sexual misconduct during an educational conference at a Portland hotel.
The Port of Portland Police and Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office conducted criminal investigations early on and decided the case did not warrant criminal prosecution. Chemeketa also launched its own internal investigation.
In mid-June, two weeks before she left to become president of a community college in the Seattle area, Roberts said the investigation was almost wrapped up. By then, Lanning, who was still on paid leave from his job as the college’s chief academic officer and president of its McMinnville branch campus, had collected more than $51,000 of his $153,500 annual salary and about $5,000 in health benefits while not working.
However, that didn’t represent additional costs to the college and taxpayers, according to Greg Harris, Chemeketa’s dean of public information.
He said Jim Eustrom, the dean of student affairs who was appointed interim president of the Yamhill Valley Campus, did not receive additional pay for doing double duty. And staff members in Eustrom’s department also stepped up to help cover his workload so he could take on the extra job.
In the same way, staff members in the financial department expanded their workloads to help fill in for CFO Julie Huckestein when she was appointed Chemeketa’s interim president following Roberts’ departure.
“We’ve made a concentrated effort to try to manage personnel costs,” Harris said. “We’re doing the best we can with the people we have to cover all the duties. We’re trying to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money.”
Harris said the college has finished its investigation into the charges against Lanning. However, “the administrative process is still being worked through between the college, Patrick Lanning and his attorney.”
Harris said he couldn’t comment about whether the paid administrative leave was continuing or how long it lasted or would last. He said he can’t disclose his status, given “the delicacy of this situation.”
Lanning’s suspension came to light in early April following a background check conducted in connection with his candidacy for president of Central Oregon Community College in Bend. Neither he nor Chemeketa disclosed his status during COCC’s recruitment process.
COCC board members interviewed him in Bend and visited Chemeketa’s Salem campus before they discovered that he had been placed on administrative leave weeks earlier in connection with an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct. They immediately dropped him from consideration and announced they would be starting a new presidential search.
Roberts said Chemeketa’s policy is to keep personnel matters of that nature undisclosed, even when they involve the college’s second-ranking official.
Attorney Richard Slezak of Salem, who represents Lanning’s accuser, filed a tort claim notice against the college on Feb. 24. That’s a required pre-curser to potential litigation. Slezak has not yet filed a lawsuit.
In the tort claim notice, he alleged his client, a lower-ranking Chemeketa employee, had been subjected to “potential sexual assault or unwelcome sexual contact” by Lanning late on Feb. 6 or early on Feb. 7 at the Airport Sheraton.
According to a report compiled by the Port of Portland Police, the woman said she, Lanning and several other Chemeketa staff members went out drinking after a conference session. She claims Lanning encouraged her to drink heavily and touched her in a way that made her uncomfortable.
At the end of an evening of drinking, another male Chemeketa employee walked her to her room. A hotel surveillance tape shows Lanning exiting and elevator and walking toward her room about five minutes later, according to the police report.
In the morning, the accuser said, she awoke naked, although she usually sleeps in pajamas. She claimed she found Lanning’s reading glasses on the nightstand.
The glasses were never found, but police said the room had been cleaned by the time they arrived.
According to the police report, she told officers “she had a feeling that Mr. Lanning had been in her hotel room, but that it may have been a dream.”