Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Alaska Department Of Public Safety Commissioner Charles Kopp Denies He Is A Sexual Harasser, Claims Hugs Were Just Platonic

Update July 22nd 9:40 P.M: Updated information and additional links posted. Updated information posted in green.

Update July 25th: Charles Kopp resigned, updated post HERE.

New Public Safety Commissioner Charles Kopp has just denied that he sexually harassed an employee when he was Kenai police chief. He says he did hug an employee in the workplace three or four times, which generated a sexual harassment reprimand. Initial story published on this post of the ADN's Alaska Politics blog and on KTUU Channel 2 and on KTVA Channel 11. A complete transcript of Kopp's remarks, including a Q&A session with the media, is published on this post.

Kopp acknowledged he was reprimanded by letter by the Kenai city council after he was found to have improperly hugged the employee multiple times. He appealed the letter, subsequently reaching an agreement that if there were no recurrences, the letter would be removed from her file after two years. This did indeed happen.

Kopp said the hugs were non-sexual, in a "friend-to-friend capacity," and he has no idea why the woman eventually filed a sexual harassment complaint with the city. He disputes that he ever kissed her, as the woman claims. He further explained that he hugged the woman "three or four times", and that some of the hugs were initiated by her. In addition, Kopp acknowledged that he rubbed her neck once when she complained of pain. He said he asked if she wanted him to rub her neck and she said "OK." He denies ever kissing her.

The employee who made the accusation, in 2005, was a longtime friend who he'd known since high school. She was friends with both Kopp and his wife, and they routinely hugged when greeting each other outside of work. The woman had worked for the department before Kopp was police chief and was hired again after he became chief and opening came up.

Kopp claims that he's learned his lesson; his subsequent behavior appears to support that contention. As a gesture of solidarity, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter appeared with Kopp and said, "We are very supportive of him in our community."

Again, here is the seven-minute KTUU interview in which the victim tells her story. It appears the two stories are relatively similar, except the victim believes the incidences were much more frequent.

And moments ago, Governor Palin has just issued a press release explaining the Monegan situation in greater detail. She claims she has met face-to-face with Monegan over two dozen times. She also got five other administration officials to "verify" her accessibility, including Mike Nizich, Click Bishop, Joe Schmidt, Craig Campbell, and John Katz. They all effusively praise the "Great Helmswoman" for her accessibility. It reminds me of the old days of the Soviet Union during a Communist Party Congress, when each Politburo member would get up and belch forth oceans of praise for the General Secretary.

Commentary: This is exactly how Kopp should have explained it the first time, instead of deflecting the issue. His account shows why Governor Palin was inclined to overlook the incident and hire him as DPS Commissioner anyway. His new explanation does restore some confidence in the integrity of his new stewardship.

It also tends to explain why the victim never filed suit. She apparently believed merely being detached from his chain of command was a sufficient remedy.

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