PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman will open a new investigation into allegations of employee hazing at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, a spokesman at his office confirmed.
The investigation follows a Willamette Week report detailing violent hazing, intimidation and bullying at a PBOT maintenance facility in North Portland. Willamette Week and KGW obtained a PBOT personnel investigation which was based on interviews with nine employees.
Employees were bound with duct tape, hit with objects fired from a high-pressure air gun and made to pick food off the floor in a humiliating manner, according to the report completed in January.
Jerry Munson, a crew leader at the facility, was the target of the investigation. The investigation found that he shot at least nine employees with an air gun for years.
One employee said he was shot with BBs, popcorn kernels and hard candies.
"He said he was told to go stand by the garage door and then he would get shot," the initial investigation said. "The airgun shots were painful and they left welts and bruises."
Another employee said the shootings were "pretty much a daily occurrence."
PBOT proposed firing Munson in January, but he was instead demoted and transferred within PBOT after the union contested his proposed firing.
Former PBOT employee Russell Wilkinson was fired after he participated in the investigation, he said in a complaint he filed with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Wilkinson said he chose to move to a different shift in January after he was interviewed for the investigation, according to the BOLI complaint, because his coworkers were treating him badly. He was fired on Feb 1.
“I believe this was in retaliation for participating in the investigation,” Wilkinson said in the complaint.
Saltzman said he re-opened the investigation to find out why Munson was not fired and that probe could go all the way up the PBOT chain of command.
"I'm going to look at the chain of command issues too," Saltzman said. "The discipline seems disproportionate, disproportionate in terms of lenience, compared to the offenses that occurred - the bullying and the hazing."
Saltzman told KGW he was outraged when he read the hazing details and saw the photo of the duct-taped employee.
He said the new investigation could take two months. It will be conducted by the city's human resources department.
Saltzman has the discretion to fire anyone who works at PBOT.
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