Gushwa accuser threatens to sue

Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa holds up his right hand as he is sworn in by Circuit Court Judge Christopher Brauer Friday at the Umatilla County Courthouse in Pendleton. Gushwa is begining his first elected term as district attourney for Umatilla County. Gushwa was appointed as District Attourney last year by Gov. Ted Kulongoski after previous District Attourney Christopher Bruaer was elected Circuit Court Judge.

The Umatilla County employee who in August accused District Attorney Dean Gushwa of a sex crime has put the county and the state on notice for a possible lawsuit, alleging both failed to protect her from Gushwa’s conduct and even condoned retaliation because she reported it.

 She also has threatened to sue him for physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Gushwa has denied the accusations.

Friday, the East Oregonian obtained a copy of the lawsuit notice the employee had Portland lawyer Thomas K. Doyle send to Umatilla County Counsel Doug Olsen.

Doyle said it’s too early in the process to discuss the case. In the notice, Doyle says Gushwa subjected the employee to physical, sexual and emotional abuse, both on and off duty over the course of two years, including in July and August 2010. Doyle also wrote, “This abuse has implicated the terms and condition of employment for ---. Moreover, the County and the State have failed to protect --- from this conduct and have condoned retaliation for the reporting of this conduct.”

Gushwa said he hadn’t seen the tort claim notice. But, after listening to the accusations, he gave this statement: “I deny it. That did not happen.”

The EO usually doesn’t reveal the names of reporters of sex crimes or victims. During a brief phone call Friday, the employee confirmed on Aug. 16 she reported Gushwa for a sex crime.

Pendleton police took that report and referred it to the Oregon Department of Justice, which launched its investigation into the accusation Aug. 18.

Agencies kept quiet about that investigation until the EO broke the story Aug. 26. That same day, Gushwa announced he would take a leave from office while the DOJ conducted the investigation.

In the 12 weeks since then, Tony Green, spokesman for the DOJ, has said he can’t comment on the probe. Thursday, Green reiterated that and said he couldn’t comment on why the scrutiny is seeming to take so long.

“Each case is different,” Green said in an e-mail. “Commenting on the length would necessitate discussing aspects of the case that would be inappropriate to discuss.”

Gushwa, too, said he wouldn’t comment on the DOJ’s investigation. And, in spite of being out of office nearly three months, Gushwa said he has no intention of resigning.

“If I had done anything unlawful, I would resign,” Gushwa said. “I want to see the end of the investigation because I want to get back to work.”

The district attorney is a state official that receives most of his money from the state and a small stipend from the county. The deputy district attorney’s and the rest of the office staff, though, are county employees.

Gushwa has continued to draw a paycheck while on leave. He makes $7,363 a month in salary and receives almost $2,205 in monthly insurance and retirement benefits.

Deputy district attorneys and office staff also haven’t commented on Gushwa or how well the office is functioning without its leader. The DOJ has been running the Umatilla County District Attorney’s Office since Gushwa stepped aside.

Umatilla County Commissioner Dennis Doherty had concerns about how well the DOJ is handling that work. He said he met with officials in the Oregon Attorney General’s Office in Salem and came away feeling much better about the situation.

“They are working to leave the office in better condition than when they found it, so to speak,” Doherty said.

Green said making sure the “office is being run the way it should be” is one of the DOJ’s top priorities.

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