Everett Councilman Ron Gipson denies harassment allegations

EVERETT — City Councilman Ron Gipson hosted an event Tuesday to deny allegations that he sexually harassed women he works with at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

Gipson two weeks ago returned to work as a juvenile corrections officer after spending 19 months on paid leave. He said he’s been given a 30-day suspension without pay for allegedly making inappropriate sexual comments.

“I want to be very clear: I did not sexually harass or make any (inappropriate) comments to my co-workers,” Gipson said.

Gipson said he’s contesting the findings against him through workplace arbitration. He took responsibility for “making locker room talk with my male co-workers.”

Superior Court administrators, who oversee Denney, initiated the personnel investigation in early 2014. It has cost taxpayers more than a half-million dollars. The county also paid $750,000 to settle a lawsuit that focused on Gipson’s behavior toward three women who work with him.

The county hired Mill Creek attorney Marcella Fleming Reed’s law firm to look into claims of wrongdoing about Gipson and 21 other co-workers.

Investigators concluded that Gipson made inappropriate sexual and racial remarks at work. They were unable to substantiate more serious allegations. The Daily Herald obtained a copy of the findings through a public records request.

“Mr. Gipson knew his conduct violated county policies and ignored (a supervisor’s) instructions to stop the behavior,” the report states. “Mr. Gipson’s conduct constitutes sexual harassment and violates Superior Court policy.”

Gipson called the law firm’s findings “inadequate and incomplete.”

About 50 people gathered Tuesday evening at the Everett Firefighters Hall on Hewitt Avenue to hear him speak. They included family members and supporters, but also people who objected to what Gipson was saying.

Mark Winecoff’s wife, Karen Hastings, was one of the women who settled the lawsuit with the county and whose allegations touched off the internal investigation. Hastings continues to work at Denney.

“I want to you to understand what you’ve put my wife through for the last few years,” Winecoff told Gipson during a question-and-answer period. “She can’t go to the public restroom alone because of what you’ve done to her.”

Gipson responded: “I appreciate you coming tonight, sir, and I appreciate you wanting the truth to be told. That’s what we’re here for.”

Gipson was first elected to the Everett City Council in 1995 and is trying for a sixth consecutive term in office. He’s opposed in the Nov. 3 election by Cassie Franklin, who finished ahead of him in the August primary.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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