By Sara Roth
PORTLAND, Ore. – An Illinois-based company’s management contracts at two City of Portland golf clubs remain safe for now despite newly reported sexual harassment allegations against senior corporate staff, including the longtime general manager of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Southern Oregon.
The City of Portland pays the company, KemperSports, $250,000 a year to manage Colwood Golf Center and Heron Lakes Golf Club, both of which are owned by the City of Portland and operated by Portland Parks & Recreation.
The new allegations against KemperSports are not directly tied to the Portland courses. Portland Parks & Recreation said it takes sexual harassment allegations very seriously but the department is not altering its current contracts with KemperSports.
KemperSports was sued in 2016 by a Bandon Dunes employee for sexual harassment and abuse. The lawsuit alleged the general manager of Bandon Dunes, Henry Hickox, made inappropriate comments toward the employee and forcefully kissed her, and corporate staff failed to act quickly after the allegations were reported. The lawsuit also cites additional sexual harassment allegations involving KemperSports’ president and other senior staff.
KGW first reported the allegations on Nov. 13. The lawsuit has since been settled out of court and KemperSports said Hickox is no longer employed by the corporation.
Court records show the Bandon Dunes lawsuit was not the first time KemperSports has come under legal scrutiny for sexual harassment allegations. Another lawsuit filed in 2014 alleged inappropriate behavior at Heron Lakes Golf Course in Portland.
The lawsuit claims KemperSports neglected to address an employee’s sexual harassment and assault allegations against a patron at Heron Lakes Golf Club in Portland, and discriminated against her based on her gender. The lawsuit was settled out of court and the conditions of the settlement were not released.
The lawsuit was filed by a cart server at Heron Lakes who said she was hesitant to work a fundraising golf event in 2013, due to patrons making “vulgar and inappropriate sexual comments” at the same event the year before. The lawsuit claims KemperSports management assured her the issue was resolved, however, the lawsuit claims she was sexually harassed by an intoxicated patron during the 2013 event.
According to the lawsuit, the patron jumped into her golf cart while she was working at the golf course and refused to leave after she asked him to. Instead, the lawsuit alleges the patron “grabbed the back of [the employee’s] neck and would not get off her cart or leave the area” and “offered to pay [the employee] $50 an hour under the table if she were to give him a blow job by displaying graphic gestures with his free hand to convey the act of getting oral sex.”
The employee said the patron only left after she screamed and pleaded with him to let her go, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged that when the employee told her manager, who works for KemperSports, he “did not seem very concerned” and told her “not to serve the group on the golf course for the time being.”
The employee resigned because KemperSports management failed to prevent a hostile work environment, the lawsuit said.
Portland Parks & Recreation said it was aware of the allegations stemming from the 2014 lawsuit but the city reviewed KemperSports’ internal policies and they aligned with the parks department’s policies.
The review found that KemperSports’ policies provide both a welcoming and safe environment for customers and employees, and the company maintains an incident reporting structure for employees that is open and without fear of retribution, according to PP&R spokesman Mark Ross.
Portland Parks & Recreation said it did make some proactive changes at its golf courses including enhanced alcohol monitoring and signs that warn customers and employees against threats, harassment and inappropriate behavior.
“Further, to ensure best practices, safety and service going forward, PP&R requested Kemper to provide additional training to both management and to front-line staff with regards to timely reporting and response protocols if incidents do occur,” Ross said.
Portland Parks & Recreation became aware of the additional sexual harassment claims involving KemperSports and Bandon Dunes following KGW’s report.
“Portland Parks & Recreation will continue to monitor the unfolding situation and any outcomes, and take any actions necessary to ensure that PP&R policies and practices to create a safe work space are followed by other facility operators,” Ross said.
The City of Portland pays KemperSports $185,000 a year to manage Heron Lakes’ two courses, and $65,000 a year to manage Colwood. KemperSports is in charge of all clubhouse operations, marketing and scheduling for the two facilities. All staff at Heron Lakes and Colwood who are involved in these tasks are KemperSports employees.
KemperSports’ contract at Heron Lakes expires in June 2018 and its Colwood contract expires in 2021.
After the contracts are up, Ross said the parks department will either continue working with KemperSports or choose another contractor.
“PP&R will enter into a selection process that will consider a multitude of factors, including a company’s reputation with regard to corporate integrity and business practices,” Ross said.
Bandon Dunes and its parent corporation are the focus of an explosive lawsuit that alleges rampant sexual misconduct.
Published Nov. 24, 2017