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December 9th, 2009 Nigel Jaquiss, James Pitkin | News Stories
 

Minnis: “My Wife’s Gonna Freakin’ Shoot Me”

AG won’t prosecute former state agency head. But San Diego still could.

     
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OUSTED: John Minnis in happier times.

John Minnis, the former head of the state agency that certifies public safety officials, won’t be prosecuted in Oregon on charges stemming from a sexual relationship with a subordinate.

But the announcement Tuesday from Attorney General John Kroger about his investigation does not end the matter for Minnis, who resigned Nov. 24 as the director of the Oregon State Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

While Kroger’s criminal chief, Sean Riddell, declined to prosecute John Minnis, Riddell left open the prospect of helping the San Diego Police Department if it decides to investigate Minnis’ conduct with his employee in that jurisdiction. It is unclear why Minnis was in San Diego.

“It is our opinion that we cannot prove Mr. Minnis committed any criminal acts as the Director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in regards to his personal relationship with a particular employee under his supervision,” Riddell wrote to DPSST deputy director Eriks Gabliks in a Dec. 7 letter.

“However, Mr. Minnis admitted to conduct that occurred outside of our jurisdiction that we do not have the authority to decline or accept prosecution [of],” Riddell wrote. “We forwarded a copy of our investigation to the San Diego Police Department at the request of the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. We also extended an offer to the San Diego Police Department to assist in any follow-up investigation they might determine to be necessary.” Spokesmen for the San Diego Police and San Diego District Attorney’s Offices told WW they had no information about the case.

At issue is a relationship Minnis, 55, admitted to with a woman who worked for him at DPSST. In the course of their investigation, according to Riddell, AG’s investigators interviewed Minnis and the woman and inspected Minnis’ emails and travel expenses.

Minnis told investigators the relationship included kissing, touching and gifts but was consensual and stopped short of intercourse. His former subordinate disputed that characterization, saying Minnis pursued her relentlessly from October 2008 through November 2009 and plied her with alcohol during work training trips together, despite knowing she had a drinking problem.

Details from interviews and other heavily redacted documents released Tuesday by Kroger’s office include the woman alleging Minnis suggested getting state-paid two-way radios so they could communicate undetected by his wife; she said she initially felt comfortable working for Minnis because he was married for 35 years, was a Christian and talked about that all the time.

The woman says that at least twice Minnis put her to bed and she woke up in some state of undress. The woman says she was unsure whether Minnis had sex with her when she was asleep.

Minnis denies taking advantage of the woman or having intercourse with her. Investigators say Minnis told them anything they did was consensual and that he had ejaculated in her presence.

In his interview with investigators, Minnis told them he had not discussed the woman with anyone: “I mean, I’d probably talk to a priest, because my wife’s gonna freakin’ shoot me.”

Minnis is married to Karen Minnis, once the most powerful woman legislator in Oregon. Karen Minnis, a Republican from Wood Village, served as speaker of the Oregon House in 2003 and 2005.

The couple have been married since 1972 and have three children. Karen Minnis began her Salem career as an aide to her husband in 1987 when he was a legislator, and worked in that capacity for about a decade before seeking office herself as a representative from east Multnomah County.

The AG’s investigation of John Minnis brings an ignominious end to a long public career. That end was something John Minnis seemed conscious of when he raised the specter of disgraced Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto in his interview. He told investigators, “My intent would be not to be some bozo that hangs on, uh, tries to drag people you know, try to remember Bernie Giusto is a good example of somebody that hung on and hung on and hung on.”

Minnis joined the Portland Police Bureau in 1976, eventually rising in a 27-year career to homicide detective, the position the bureau reserves for its top performers.

Minnis also distinguished himself as a lawmaker.

After entering the Legislature in 1985, he rose to co-chair the budget-writing Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

In 2003, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, appointed Minnis to head DPSST, which trains and certifies more than 35,000 police, firefighters, probation and parole officers, private investigators and security companies.

The move quadrupled Minnis’ annual legislative salary to about $120,000 (thus boosting his PERS pension), and the Senate vacancy helped pave the way for Democrats to take control of the Oregon Senate.

Kulongoski accepted Minnis’ immediate resignation from DPSST on Nov. 24 when the charges arose that he’d sexually harassed a subordinate, after rejecting Minnis’ offer to resign effective Jan. 1.

Minnis attorney Michael Staropoli didn’t have an immediate comment by press time, saying he planned to put out a statement later Tuesday evening.

Editor’s note: To see the Minnis investigation documents, go to wweek.com/minnis_docs.


FACTS: John Minnis will receive two pensions in retirement: one from the Portland Fire & Police Disability and Retirement Fund for his service as a Portland police officer and one from PERS for employment as a legislator from 1985 to 2004 and DPSST director from 2004 to 2009.

The Minnises recently moved from east Multnomah County to Clark County, Wash., where there is no income tax.

 
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