Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Harassment at KDADS Was Severely Mishandled

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Harassment at KDADS Was Severely Mishandled

Article excerpt

Jennifer Gill used to be the director of a facility operated by a Topeka-based disability services company (Equi-Venture Farms) in Newton. Shortly after her company asked the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services for assistance with a regulatory issue in 2016, she says KDADS commissioner Brandt Haehn started harassing her with sexual text messages. He allegedly sent a picture of his penis, a masturbation video and a series of vulgar comments -- as she later put it, "He would say pretty direct, blatant things."

According to Gill, Haehn even promised to give her a job in the Brownback administration if she would agree to have oral and vaginal sex with him every few days.

KDADS Secretary Tim Keck says the agency promptly disciplined Haehn: "As soon as we became aware of these allegations, KDADS put the employee in question on administrative leave. Mr. Haehn is no longer employed by the state." Notice how Keck leaves out the fact that Haehn was promptly reinstated after a brief suspension. Who cares if he's "no longer employed by the state"? Haehn kept working for the state until June, and Keck needs to explain how and why the agency decided it was acceptable to let him keep his job.

Here's who didn't get to keep her job: Jennifer Gill. Shortly after she reported the harassment, she was fired from Equi-Venture. While the executive director of Equi-Venture, Ben Swinnen, claims Gill was terminated for a series of performance issues (such as arriving at work in an "altered state of mind"), she disputes this explanation. She also points to the relationship between Swinnen and Haehn, arguing that her former boss chose to "buddy up" with her harasser and protect Equi-Venture instead of defending her.

Swinnen doesn't agree with Gill's interpretation of what happened: "I deny absolutely any wrongdoing and any retaliation. …

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