New Department of Public Safety Commissioner Chuck Kopp on Tuesday for the first time said he had a sexual harassment complaint made against him in 2005 by a female assistant when he was chief of Kenai Police and that he was reprimanded for it by the City of Kenai.
The complaint ultimately yielded a letter of reprimand from the city that went into his personnel file but was removed a couple years later after no other complaints were made against him, he said.
The letter told him "don't ever hug an employee," he said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Last week, Kopp said there was no history of validated sexual harassment complaints and no job action was taken against him.
Kopp was named head of the state Department Public Safety on July 11 after Gov. Sarah Palin fired Walt Monegan. Palin, who was not available for comment Tuesday, has said through her spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, that she knew of the complaint but heard it had been found unsubstantiated.
Kopp, 43, told his side of the allegations of sexual harassment at the press conference held at Alaska State Troopers headquarters in Anchorage. His wife of 21 years, Patricia, stood just outside the door and listened in.
"There is one thing I am not. I am not a sex harasser," he said. He said the claims against him have challenged his reputation, and "for reasons that I do not know, I have been made the subject of rumor and innuendo."
But the woman behind the allegation says Kopp isn't telling the truth about details of their relationship. The Daily News contacted the woman, and she agreed to be interviewed if her name was not used. Kopp defined sexual harassment to the press before telling his story: "In our society, men typically, but not always, are the harassers and women typically are the victims. And this can happen in a couple of ways. Either the boss demands sexual favors from the female subordinate. Or, there is a pattern of conduct called a hostile work environment designed to drive the woman out of the workplace.
"I did not do either of those things, and I never have," he said.
Kopp said he was a longtime friend of the complainant's, and they had a history of greeting each other with a hug before she started working for him. He says he hugged her three or four times while she worked for him. He said at least half of the hugs were initiated by her. "A friend-to-friend hug," he said.
"I did not kiss her. ... I never sought to make her uncomfortable," he said.
The woman, though, says a police officer walked in on them as Kopp was kissing her on the right cheek.
"That is a lie. That is not true," Kopp said.
The woman, reached after the press conference, said much of what Kopp said is not true; other things are distorted. She said, for example, they met when she started working as a dispatcher at the police department, not in high school, as he said.
The hugs, she said, started when she became his assistant in 2005 and only took place when no one was around, she said.
"He kept trying to build this icky closeness," she said in a phone interview.
Kopp says he rubbed her neck once because she was in extreme pain. The woman says that she felt uncomfortable in letting him touch her.
The woman told Kopp to stop. But he didn't and the requests for hugs continued, she said.
The woman complained, and the City of Kenai investigated. Kopp was removed as her boss, and he was sent a letter of reprimand. He appealed the decision, and agreed with the City Council that if no other complaints were filed against him, the letter would be removed from his personnel file.
The letter was ultimately removed from his file.
He said he learned a lesson about sexual harassment and appropriate workplace behavior.
About a year later, the woman quit her job.
Last Friday, Kopp hand delivered to the Daily News his personnel file from the City of Kenai. Before he did so, the Daily News asked him in a phone interview if complaints would be in the personnel file. He said: "Yes. If there was a history of investigations or things that showed otherwise, you can bet that there'd be a record of it."
The file, though, had no records of complaints. It contained glowing reviews of his performance as a cop.
"The allegation was not substantiated," he said on Friday. "The allegation was looked at and vetted by our legal department."
At Kopp's first press conference on July 15, he said: "There's no job action ever taken against me. If there was, I wouldn't be here with you today.
"Take my transparency at face value, there is no history of these types of complaints."
Kopp could not be reached for further comment Tuesday after the press conference.
Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.
Excerpts from Kopp's press conference
Here are excerpts from Tuesday's news conference by new Public Safety Commissioner Chuck Kopp.
"Sexual harassment is a serious thing. In our society, men typically but not always are the harassers and women are usually the victims. This can happen in a couple of ways. Either the boss demands sexual favors from the female subordinate or there is a pattern of conduct called a hostile work environment designed to drive the woman out of the workplace. I did not do either of those things and I never have."
"An acquaintance of mine since high school is the accuser that we are talking about. ... She was a friend outside of work to my wife and I. She (was a former police employee and) came by to see me at work. ... Her normal greeting of me in the police department lobby was with a hug. A job opening did come up in April of 2005 and the complainant took the position when it was offered to her."
"In ... social settings, it was normal for her to greet me or say goodbye with a hug. Nothing other than that. A friend-to-friend hug. That gives context to that relationship."
"In September 2005, she accused me of sexual harassment. This came as a complete surprise. She said there were some hugs at work. She said there was a neck rub when she was in pain. And then there was an alleged kiss."
"I did not kiss her. I never sought nor requested an intimate relationship with her. I never sought to make her uncomfortable in her job."
"I admitted that there had been three or four hugs in the workplace. I adamantly denied that I ever chased after her or that it was anything other than a friend-to-friend, or reciprocal, if anything it was initiated by her at least half the time. That it was not anything that I was chasing or pursuing. And I explained our outside work relationship and cooberated that."
"Initially, I was told that any contact with an employee, a hug in that nature, was inappropriate in a workplace and I was given a letter of reprimand. I then exercised my right to appeal that action, and I did so because I knew that I did not sexually harass the female employee and that our relationship had been just friends. The city council heard my appeal and it agreed the letter of reprimand would be removed from the file if there were no further occurrences in the next two years. There have been no further occurrences since then. There were none whatsoever and there were none before that. And the letter of reprimand was removed and my record is clean."
"I've always done every job I've ever done with honor and integrity. There is one thing I am not. I am not a sex harasser. There are many things I am. I am a positive, goal driven individual with high expectations for this department. I am not afraid of a challenge. I'm a good communicator. And I have a great depth of experience in many areas. I love the state of Alaska and its people. I am honored to help guide this department and provide for the public safety of all Alaskans through the furtherance of our mission."