State Politics

Idaho Controller’s Office settles claim of sexual, racial harassment

The Idaho Capitol in Boise.
The Idaho Capitol in Boise.

The state has agreed to settle a sexual and racial harassment claim filed by a former employee.

Lourdes Matsumoto filed a tort claim on Sept. 18 alleging Dan Goicoechea, formerly chief of staff for the Idaho State Controller’s Office, sexually and racially harassed her and discriminated against her.

In addition to a cash payment, the Controller’s Office agreed to not rehire Goicoechea and to provide its employees with training on harassment and discrimination, according to a news release from Matsumoto’s attorney on Thursday.

The state paid $83,000 to settle the claim; Lourdes had asked for $191,500.

The Controller’s Office said in a news release it is not admitting liability, but that it agreed to the terms “to improve processes and procedures within the office” and because of “a desire by all parties to swiftly address this situation, and to improve moving forward.”

“As a leader, the responsibility to set the tone for our team and environment ultimately rests with me,” Controller Brandon Woolf said in a written statement. “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.

“We recognize that strong policies and procedures are not enough; everyone must also feel safe and empowered to bring concerns forward. Like all workplaces across our nation right now, we are looking at what we can do to be better. Our office is embracing the opportunity to improve our trainings, our communication with our employees, and in holding people accountable for their actions. We acknowledge that this has been difficult for everyone involved, and it is our hope that a settlement allows all parties to move forward.”

The Statesman has also reached out to Goicoechea’s attorney for comment.

In Matsumoto’s claim, she listed numerous alleged examples of abusive language and violent acts by Goicoechea, in conversations involving her and/or multiple third parties. She also accused Woolf of either condoning or doing nothing to address that behavior.

Following an internal investigation, Goicoechea was given the option to resign. He did so on Aug. 11 and immediately went to work at the State Department of Education as deputy for governmental affairs. He left that job on Sept. 18, the same day Matsumoto filed her claim.

Goicoechea’s attorney, Rory Jones, told the Statesman Goicoechea resigned from both jobs because he did not want his bosses, elected officials Woolf and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, to be tarnished by the “false allegations.”

Because the claim was filed against the Controller’s Office, not Goicoechea, Jones said his client did not get to formally respond to the allegations. But Goicoechea and others would be able to serve as witnesses during any possible lawsuit, “and a much different picture will be painted of what happened here,” Jones said earlier.

Under Idaho code, the state has 90 days to respond to a tort claim, which in Matsumoto’s case would have been next week. If the state does not settle a claim, the complainant can then bring forward a lawsuit.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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