FOR DECADES, Multnomah County has trusted Leslie Taylor to carry out important matters of justice.
As a juvenile probation officer, he works with young offenders, sternly guiding them (hopefully) toward positive outcomes. The Portland Tribune, in a 2011 story, called Taylor "a large man with a slow fuse." Later that year, a local sorority recognized him as an "unsung hero."
But new allegations against the man and his employer say there's another side to Taylor—claims that, if true, would call into serious question his fitness to work with troubled youth, and the county's decision to let him keep doing so.
A former coworker, according to a civil suit filed on August 23, has accused Taylor of forcibly touching her "vaginal area" while the two were parked outside a county building. That alleged assault, the woman says, followed months of harassment and unwanted advances by Taylor—a problem she believed was resolved at the time of the July 2012 incident.
The woman also claims Taylor had a history of sexual harassment, and that the county should have known he posed a threat. Her suit asks for $633,300 in damages.
Claims by the woman—whom the Mercury isn't identifying because she's allegedly the victim of sexual assault—are difficult to verify. Portland police confirm she filed a sexual assault report against Taylor, but haven't released it to the Mercury and have yet to file charges.
The county confirms Taylor was put on paid administrative leave from his $64,289-a-year position beginning last November, and that he was allowed to return in April.
But officials have refused to answer questions about the case because the county is named as a defendant. In denying a request for an internal investigation into the matter, the County Attorney's Office cited an open records law exemption for "personnel discipline actions when a sanction is imposed," suggesting Taylor might have been punished.
"I don't want to get into it," said the soft-spoken Taylor, on Tuesday, September 10. "It's frustrating, man. My family's been going through the wringer with this stuff."
Asked if his accuser was lying, he again declined to comment. Taylor does not appear to have a lawyer yet.
The woman who filed the lawsuit is not a county employee, but worked closely with county justice staff as an employee of the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, or POIC, a nonprofit that deals with at-risk youth.
The suit alleges that, after meeting the woman in early 2012, Taylor almost immediately "demonstrated inappropriate sexual interest.” He'd comment on her hair, the suit says, and say things like: "You remind me of my ex-wife" and "I could stare into your eyes forever."
It made the woman uncomfortable, the suit says, and eventually word of that discomfort reached Taylor. He allegedly called her in June 2012, saying, "You know I was just joking. I thought we were cool like that."
After that, the suit says, the woman thought the matter had been put to rest. She accepted a ride from Taylor on July 18, 2012, since they were both headed to a local boys’ home.
When they arrived back at county offices, the suit says, Taylor squeezed the woman's thigh. He allegedly told her, "I can tell you're clenching your pussy for me," and ran his hand up her dress.
The suit says Taylor then backed his car out of a parking space and dropped the woman off at the juvenile justice complex.
She stopped attending meetings with Taylor, and in September told her boss, who reached out to Scott Taylor, director of the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice. On October 5, the woman filed a report with police, and in December submitted a notice she might sue the county.
According to the woman's lawyer, Daniel Snyder, police wanted her to call Taylor and cajole a confession while investigators listened in. She declined, Snyder says.
"It took a lot of courage on the part of my client" to come forward, he says. "She's emotionally distressed."