What's it worth, in the sensitive economies of closed-door legal deals, to make disturbing sexual allegations against one of your long-time employees go away? A cool $75,000, according to a tentative settlement the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved this morning.
If things go as expected, that's the amount the county will pay a woman who alleges a juvenile probation officer forcibly grabbed her vagina in the summer of 2012, and told her: "I can tell you're clenching your pussy for me."
The allegations, first reported by the Mercury, are ugly, and raise questions about probation officer Leslie Taylor's fitness to work with troubled youth. According to police documents, Taylor acknowledges being the subject of past harassment complaints. And he was suspended from his $64,289-a-year position from November 2012 to April 2013 because of the plaintiff's claims. (We're not naming the woman—who works for a youth services agency that contracts with the county—because she's the victim of an alleged sexual assault.)
According to the suit, Taylor had subjected the woman to harassment for months. He'd comment on her hair, the suit said, and say things like: "You remind me of my ex-wife" and "I could stare into your eyes forever."
It got to the point, the woman said, that she asked two colleagues to intercede on her behalf. They did, and the behavior allegedly subsided. So the plaintiff said she thought it was safe to accompany Taylor on a visit to a mutual client in July 2012. It was during that outing the alleged groping occurred.
The woman reported the incident to the Portland Police Bureau, but declined to participate in a "pretext call," in which she'd phone Taylor and elicit a confession. No charges were filed.
She filed suit in August, claiming Taylor had a history of sexual harassment, and that the county should have known he posed a threat. Her suit asked for $633,300 in damages.
The county's response was curious. On one hand, attorneys contended the interaction had never occurred. On the other, they said the woman wanted the touching to happen.
"Plaintiff consented to all of the touching at issue in Plaintiff's claims," the filing said.
Taylor, according to a police report, claimed the woman forced him to touch her.
"Taylor told me that (the plaintiff) then grabbed his hand and placed it on her leg saying, 'Don't you want to touch my leg?'" says the report, written by Portland Officer David Hughes. "Taylor said he quickly pulled his hand back away and asked (plaintiff) what she was doing... I told Taylor that (plaintiff) alleged that he ran his hand up her thigh and touched her vagina through her underwear. Taylor emphatically said he did not do that."
Reached on the phone in September, Taylor told the Mercury: "I don't want to get into it. It's frustrating, man. My family's been going through the wringer with this stuff."
Asked if his accuser was lying, Taylor declined comment.