Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Supervisor Defends Response to Allegation

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Supervisor Defends Response to Allegation

Article excerpt

The executive director of a Topeka-based company serving disabled people said Monday allegations by one of his former employees of sexual harassment by an official in the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services appeared to have merit.

Ben Swinnen, who manages Equi-Venture Farms, said one of his staff members complained last year of persistent harassment by Brandt Haehn, who was a KDADS commissioner responsible for delivery of home and community services to people on Medicaid. Swinnen said he believed allegations from Jennifer Gill, but maintained he didn't fire her last December for complaining about Haehn, whom he called a "social acquaintance."

Gill has a pending discrimination complaint against Equi-Venture with the Kansas Human Rights Commission. She worked at a Newton facility owned by Equi-Venture.

"I deny absolutely any wrongdoing and any retaliation," Swinnen said. "It will be handled through the courts. I did not engage in any unlawful action with Ms. Gill."

The Topeka Capital-Journal published a story Sunday detailing Gill's assertion Haehn sought a sexual relationship with her starting in September 2016. Gill said Haehn sent her graphic texts and images. She said he offered her a KDADS job in exchange for weekly sex with him.

Gill said she was dismissed by Swinnen soon after reporting Haehn's behavior. In an interview, Swinnen said he wouldn't have fired Gill to protect his business relationship with officials overseeing the Medicaid program called KanCare. He said he dispatched Gill for performance shortcomings, including showing up to work in an "altered state of mind."

In early 2017, KDADS placed Haehn on administrative leave for a period of weeks after Gill disclosed to the agency evidence of Haehn's solicitation of sex. Haehn declined to comment, but a document from the Kansas Human Rights Commission indicated Haehn confirmed to Swinnen he sent an inappropriate video to Gill.

Haehn was allowed to resume work at KDADS before resigning in June to join Amerigroup, one of three insurance companies selected to operate KanCare by the administration of Gov. …

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