On Nov. 20, the Oregon Department of Justice released a report that mostly cleared two of its top attorneys, both men, of allegations they had harassed or discriminated against a female co-worker.
There was just one problem: The DOJ failed to interview its former human resources director, who says his input would have changed the investigation's outcome.
That revelation comes from an email sent by the former HR director and obtained by WW.
"I was never contacted regarding this investigation," Bob Koreski wrote in the Nov. 30 email to Deputy Attorney General Fred Boss. "I am concerned that I was intentionally excluded from providing input into this investigation. I strongly believe that my input would have significantly changed some of the findings."
Koreski's complaint casts a shadow on an extensive report that mostly cleared the officials of wrongdoing, and had seemed to close an awkward chapter at the DOJ, an agency that says workplace equity is a top priority.
Karynn Fish, a spokeswoman for the DOJ, says the department does not know whether Koreski had been contacted and that it was the responsibility of the outside investigator to contact witnesses.
"DOJ has no reason to believe Koreski was intentionally excluded from the investigation," Fish says.
The DOJ's investigation, conducted by a consultant named Lori Watson, was completed Oct. 30 and resulted in an 83-page report. It cleared Marc Abrams, the assistant attorney in charge of employment litigation for the state, and mostly cleared Steve Lippold, the agency's chief trial counsel, of allegations detailed in a June 2020 tort claim filed by Heather Van Meter, a former senior assistant attorney general. She had accused Abrams of kissing her without her consent on two occasions, and said Lippold blocked her rise in the agency because she was a working mother.
According to the final report, the investigator interviewed nearly 30 witnesses, including more than a dozen assistant and senior assistant attorneys general, the manager of the Department of Human Services, and three employees from the Department of Administrative services.
In the report, Watson wrote that Koreski "did not respond to request for interview."
But in the Nov. 30 email obtained by WW, Koreski wrote to Deputy AG Boss that neither the DOJ nor Watson ever contacted him during the monthslong investigation. (Koreski did not respond to WW's request for comment.)
Koreski did not specify in his email how his input might have changed the outcome of the investigation. But having headed the HR department for the 1,300-employee agency between 2014 and 2020, according to his résumé, Koreski would have been privy to a significant portion of complaints against staff during his tenure.
Koreski departed from the agency while the investigation was being conducted. As WW previously reported, Koreski resigned from DOJ in August 2020 after a separate investigation determined he'd had an affair with another DOJ employee.
His exclusion could well have been an accident. He wrote that the investigator later told him DOJ said it had texted him in early October and that he didn't respond.
"Ms. Watson told me that DOJ sent me a text message on Oct. 7," Koreski wrote. "I did not receive a text message on Oct. 7 nor did I ever receive a telephone call or email from Ms. Watson or DOJ regarding this investigation. DOJ has record of all of my personal contact information."
Fish said Watson, the outside investigator, has now interviewed Koreski following his Nov. 30 email to Boss, and that it will be up to her whether to amend the report following the interview.
Watson did not respond to an email from WW with questions about the investigation.
Any new information from Koreski could affect the outcome of Van Meter's tort claim notice.
The only claim against Lippold and Abrams that was substantiated in the report was Van Meter's allegation that Lippold berated her in August 2017 because he learned she had filed a human resources complaint against him days earlier.
As a result, Boss reprimanded Lippold in a Nov. 16, 2020, letter, requiring him to pair up with an "executive coach who will partner with you to conduct an assessment and develop a plan for improvement and professional growth."
Van Meter's attorney, Sean Riddell, declined to discuss whether the new revelation impacts his client's tort claim. "We're exploring all legal options," he said.