Previous top candidate for presidency claimed “sick leave”
The college’s past top pick for presidency asserted he was on “sick leave” while actually on administrative leave for potential sexual misconduct at Chemeketa Community College.
The COCC Board of Directors chose not to replace retiring president Dr. Jim Middleton with Dr. Patrick Lanning on April 9, due to his being on administrative leave, but to Chemeketa Community College employees, it was still news.
“Most of us didn’t know [about the claim],” said Teresa Massey, a study skills instructor at Chemeketa. “Everything we know has come from [The Bulletin and The Broadside].”
Lanning attended the 2014 Annual Student Success and Retention conference, where according to the claimant of the tort claim, he committed acts of sexual abuse or contact from Feb. 6 to Feb. 7 at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel.
Massey and about three-fourths of the 23 Chemeketa employees signed up to attend the conference were not able to attend because of a snow storm. However, while Massey was not there, about six employees, including Lanning and potentially the filer of the tort claim, did go – and the news of the sexual misconduct allegations was still kept a secret for over two months.
“People said they heard he was on medical leave,” Massey said. “Some of the deans, not the higher ones, but just down from that, didn’t know.”
Part of the misinformation behind Lanning’s administrative leave came from Lanning himself, according to Ron Paradis, COCC director of college relations.
“I received an email response that [Lanning] was on sick leave,” Paradis said.
An automated email response from Lanning, dated Wednesday, March 12, to Paradis, claimed that he was “out of the office on sick leave.”
“There’s been different types of communication,” said Greg Harris, Chemeketa’s marketing director.
Harris was not able to verify if Lanning’s sick leave claim was also spread by other Chemeketa employees, or if Lanning was pressured to make the claim by college administration.
The Tort Claim
Since the tort claim notice was filed with Chemeketa Feb. 24, with the claimant threatening to sue, an investigation has been ongoing with the college. The claim has yet to be filed with a public entity, meaning the college is not yet at the stage of being sued for damages. If and when the claim will take a public route is something Chemeketa “doesn’t know,” according to Harris.
For now, many Chemeketa employees are still not taking part in the process. The current investigation has been “kept very private,” according to Harris, “between the president and the attorneys involved.”
“I’m not sure when it will be resolved,” Harris said.
Even Harris, the public relations spokesperson for the college, has been “kept out of the loop” about much of Chemeketa’s progress on the Lanning investigation.
However, a preliminary report of the investigation was recently released to Chemeketa president, Cheryl Roberts.
Harris expects much of the following information on the investigation to also remain private.
“There’s a lot I don’t know,” Harris said.
Junnelle Hogen | The Broadside