Former Idaho Controller employee settles harassment case

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho State Controller's Office agreed Thursday to settle with a former employee who said she was sexually and racially harassed by a supervisor while State Controller Brandon Woolf allowed the harassment to continue.

Former employee Lourdes Matsumoto's attorney announced the settlement includes an $83,000 cash payment, as well as agreeing not to rehire Woolf's Chief of Staff Dan Goicoechea. The settlement does not require the Controller's office to admit any liability.

Matsumoto has scheduled a press conference on Friday to address questions about the settlement. No other comment was provided by her attorney.

"As a leader, the responsibility to set the tone for our team and environment ultimately rests with me. I believe everyone must be treated with respect and valued for their hard work, and any form of workplace harassment or behavior that makes anyone uncomfortable is not acceptable," Woolf said in a prepared statement. "We recognize that strong policies and procedures are not enough; everyone must also feel safe and empowered to bring concerns forward."

The original seven-page tort claim — filed in September — said Goicoechea engaged in abusive language and violent acts in conversations involving Matsumoto and other individuals.

According to the tort claim, Matsumoto was hired last year as Woolf's deputy legal counsel and executive assistant but she was never allowed to serve fully in that role because Goicoechea took over her duties.

"(The employee) was horrified to discover what many of her co-workers already knew, that Mr. Goicoechea often demeaned and degraded women and minorities," wrote Lauren Scholnick, the Boise attorney representing Matsumoto, in the tort claim.

Goicoechea left the Controller's office earlier this year following an internal investigation that resulted in him being given an option to resign. He then accepted another state position as deputy for governmental affairs for the Idaho State Department of Education. He resigned from that position the day the tort claim was filed.

Goicoechea has not responded to multiple requests for comment. His attorney, Rory Jones, was out of the office Thursday.

"Our office is embracing the opportunity to improve our trainings, our communication with our employees, and in holding people accountable for their actions," Woolf said. "We acknowledge that this has been difficult for everyone involved, and it is our hope that a settlement allows all parties to move forward."

Woolf has previously denied accusations that officials condoned the harassment. Instead, the office says it immediately hired a private law firm to investigate the allegations. It was the first time the office had hired outside counsel to handle a personnel matter since Woolf took over the post in 2012.

Woolf, a constitutional officer, is up for re-election in 2018.

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