Volunteers of America Oregon destroys records that are older than seven years and refused to let me speak to Jeff Simpsons former counselor.
Volunteers of America Oregon refused to let The Stranger speak to Jeff Simpson's former counselor, despite Simpson's explicit permission. SB

Jeff Simpson, the man who came forward to accuse then-state legislator Ed Murray of childhood sexual abuse in 2008, told The Stranger that he has gone to several addiction counselors to treat issues related to his alleged sexual abuse.

One of Simpson's counselors worked, and continues to work, for Volunteers of America Oregon (VOA Oregon), which offers addiction treatment. This counselor, who Simpson says he has known for 18 to 20 years and who answered the phone briefly with Simpson's permission when The Stranger called him, said that everything Simpson relayed to me about the link between his recovery and his alleged abuse was correct. The counselor told me that he would tell me the "whole story" about Simpson's recovery and his abuse allegations if he got permission from his employer.

But despite the counselor's willingness to go on the record, VOA won't allow him to speak with The Stranger, citing a federal law that requires providers to destroy treatment documents after seven years. VOA's refusal comes after Simpson took steps to authorize the release of his confidential patient records.

In order for this counselor to speak with me, both the counselor and Simpson said that VOA Oregon asked Simpson to fill out a release form permitting the counselor to share Simpson's story. Simpson filled out the form. Then, the counselor said VOA Oregon asked him to submit a deposition of everything he might share with The Stranger. The counselor confirmed that he did.

Finally, on Tuesday, Simpson's counselor told me that I would be able to speak with him on the condition that a representative from the agency be present and that the interview be conducted at their headquarters in Portland. I agreed.

Shortly after I agreed to their terms, the counselor said VOA Oregon rescinded the organization's offer to interview Simpson's counselor. I showed up at the headquarters, where Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Sweatman told me the organization would release a statement to me. An appointment was made for me to meet with VOA Oregon leadership two hours later. In that meeting with VOA Oregon president and CEO Kay D. Toran, Toran told me I would not be able to speak with the counselor, but could speak to Greg Stone, the head of VOA Oregon's Men's Residential Center.

Toran and Stone told me that VOA Oregon destroys treatment records older than seven years, and that the organization was refusing to allow me to speak with the counselor. When I asked why, they cited confidentiality concerns. When I asked about the release form Simpson had signed, Toran said she was not aware of such a release form. (VOA Oregon confirmed that they employ Simpson's counselor, but has yet to acknowledge the Simpson's signed release form.)

Toran, Stone, and communications director Brenda Ray Scott did not allow me to record anything that was said in that meeting, but Scott later e-mailed this statement in response to a question about why they would not allow me to speak to the counselor with Simpson's explicit consent:

We can only defend what we can document. Per our organization’s record retention policy and in keeping with retention requirements, we shred client treatment files after seven years.

The significance of all this: Ed Murray says his accusers are politically motivated. But if Simpson relayed these abuse allegations to an addiction counselor in private years ago, and if they are consistent with his public allegations, this would lend credence to the idea that the allegations run deeper than politics. On the flip side, if Simpson’s counselor says that Simpson never brought up the abuse allegations, or that the allegations he heard are inconsistent with Simpson's public allegations, this would cast doubt on Simpson’s story.

At this point, Simpson has not filed a civil lawsuit over his allegations, which have run past Oregon's statute of limitations anyway. VOA Oregon is not at risk of a legal violation, because the agency has Simpson's permission to share what he told his counselor.

VOA Oregon, via Simpson’s counselor, has information that could shed light on the accusations of child sexual abuse leveled against our mayor. The organization potentially has information that could support the claims of one of its own former clients. And they are refusing to share it.