Oregon National Guard member accused of sexual harassment while deployed at OHSU

A guard spokesman told the Capital Chronicle that the incidents are under investigation and that if found guilty, the suspect could face a range of punishments

By: - October 22, 2021 3:15 pm
Oregon Health & Science University

Oregon Health & Science University treats many Medicaid patients. (Michael McDermott/OHSU)

UPDATED: Friday, Oct. 22 at 5:25 p.m.

A member of the Oregon National Guard is under investigation following allegations of sexual harassment of staff at Oregon Health & Science University.

A spokesman for the guard, Major Chris Clyne, told the Oregon Capital Chronicle that the man was accused of sexually harassing more than one staff member at OHSU earlier this month. 

“As soon as there was the accusation from OHSU staff, that guard member was pulled out of the hospital and an investigation was started,” Clyne said. 

The Oregon Capital Chronicle learned about the incidents through a tip. 

Clyne declined to identify the suspect or reveal any details about the accusations.

“The investigation is confidential,” Clyne said, adding that “the Oregon National Guard takes sexual harassment very seriously.”

He said OHSU staff reported the allegations to Colonel Michael Burghardt, the commander of the guard’s joint task force. Burghardt is overseeing the investigation. He will decide what to do when investigators complete their inquiry, Clyne said.

Clyne did not say how long it would take to complete the investigation, but he said the case was a priority for the guard.

When OHSU officials discovered the allegation, they worked with the National Guard “to immediately remove the guard member from OHSU property,” a spokeswoman said.

“OHSU does not tolerate harassment of any kind and deeply regrets the trauma this incident has caused,” she said.

The guard member, if investigators conclude he is guilty, could face a range of punishment, including suspension without pay, extra duty or even termination.

Clyne said law enforcement is not involved and that the guard member was not accused of violating any law. However, he said that the staff reported actions that were “clearly inappropriate” or that the staff members felt were inappropriate.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder is currently conducting a workplace investigation at OHSU over its handling of complaints of sexual harassment and racial and gender discrimination. OHSU’s President Dr. Danny Jacobs has said repeatedly that OHSU will not tolerate sexual harassment in the wake of a lawsuit against the university and a former resident, Dr. Jason Campbell. A former social worker at OHSU accused Campbell in a complaint of sending her harassing messages, pornographic photographs and of pushing her into a desk with his erection. OHSU and Campbell settled the case for $585,000 in April.

The guard was initially deployed to hospitals in southern and central Oregon in August to help ease workforce shortages as hospitals grappled with a surge of patients infected with the Delta variant. By September, 1,500 guard members were deployed in hospitals around the state, helping with nonclinical duties such as cleaning rooms and handling food.

One hundred were working at OHSU in September. The sexual harassment incidents took place in the first half of October, Clyne said.

There are now 1,000 guard members in Oregon hospitals, including about 40 at OHSU. Clyne said this was the only case of a report of bad behavior.

In its statement, OHSU praised the guard for its help: “The National Guard has been an incredible partner to us throughout the pandemic, and we are extremely grateful for their service.”

There are 8,200 members in the Oregon National Guard, which includes air and army units.

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.