BEST of HA: Young woman quit DNR after being sexually harassed by Commissioner Sutherland

[In a fit of nostalgia (and laziness), I’m marking my remaining days here on HA by posting links to some of my favorite and most influential posts. If you have favorites you’d like to see, please let me know.]

07/15/2008: Young woman quit DNR after being sexually harassed by Commissioner Sutherland

If a statewide elected official were to humiliate a young female employee in front of her coworkers and supervisors by inappropriately touching her—twice—while lewdly remarking on her breasts, and ultimately leading to her resignation… you’d think that might generate a few headlines from a local press corps proven oh so sensitive on matters of perceived personal offense. But apparently, not if that elected official is a likable, grandfatherly type, like Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland.

The incident dates back almost three and a half years, and while hushed whispers have been making the rounds for nearly as long, it was not until March of 2008 that the allegation was substantiated through a public records request that produced a 62-page document detailing a number of eyewitness accounts. (The name of the victim is redacted throughout.) Yet even with this document in hand, multiple news organizations have declined to inform voters of an undisputed incident that portrays a shocking lapse of judgment on the part of Commissioner Sutherland, a management style disruptive to the operations of his agency, and a clear violation of his department’s anti-harassment policies, if not the law itself.

Perhaps no post better illustrates the crucial role of independent bloggers like me than this muckraking expose on then Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, and his sexual harassment scandal. The story, excruciatingly documented in 62 pages of public records, had been shopped around for months, but no mainstream news organization would run with it. Finally, as a last resort, the documents came to me, and after a couple weeks of further investigation and careful study, I posted. The next day the story hit the front page of the Seattle Times (prompting me to print up Seattle Times business cards with title “Volunteer Ombudsman”)… and Sutherland went on to lose a close reelection race to Democrat Peter Goldmark.

Read the whole thing.


  1. 2

    rhp6033 spews:

    The advantage of MSM used to be that it could vet the claims of the various public figures against known facts, and then report on the truth, and lay bare the lies for all the public to see. Inherent in it’s ability to do so was the credibility it garnered as a credible news organization.

    Of course, this happened more in theory than in actual application. The print media only gave lip service to impartiality, it was always wedded to one political interest or another. That’s why it was so important for cities like Seattle to avoid becoming a “one-paper” town. And until the Reagan era, the broadcast media was required to be independent by their license, being required to offer equal access to dissenting viewpoints.

    But the problem was always that the media operated as a “filter”. If they decided the news wasn’t going to be printed or broadcast, for whatever reason, it might as well not have happened at all.

    But the blogs stepped in, and filled the role admirably. Stories which would not have found the light of day for one reason or another can be set forth before the public in full detail, forcing public figures (and even the MSM) to respond.

    Of course, the credibility of the blogger is important. Otherwise it’s just another rumor-mill – and God knows we have enough of them on the blogosphere.

  2. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Why are Republican elected officials so arrogant they think they can take whatever they want?