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County inquiry focuses on hotel phone calls

St. Louis County Commissioner Steve Raukar should be censured, attend harassment training at his own expense and submit a written letter of apology to a female county employee as the result of an investigation following a complaint filed against ...

St. Louis County Commissioner Steve Raukar should be censured, attend harassment training at his own expense and submit a written letter of apology to a female county employee as the result of an investigation following a complaint filed against him in March, according to the county's acting civil service officer.

Allegations are that Raukar in February made unsolicited sexually explicit phone calls to the female during an out-of-town event attended by Raukar, the woman and other county officials.

Raukar said Friday that he objects to the allegations.

"We believe this investigation has been done poorly, based on hearsay and innuendo and is short on facts,'' Raukar said. "The reality is that there is nothing I did that rises to the level of sexual harassment. As time goes forward, I am confident that my position will be verified and that more facts will come out that will bring clarity to the situation.''

Raukar is expected to make an additional statement at a board meeting Tuesday in Duluth.

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In two weeks, at a meeting in Mountain Iron, the seven-member County Board is likely to discuss whether to censure Raukar, require him to attend harassment training, and write a letter of apology.

"Those recommendations from civil service will be coming to the board,'' said Commissioner Bill Kron of Duluth, chairman of the board. "We've had a sexual harassment policy for 30 years, and it has worked well. In this care, a thorough investigation was done, and it is working to a conclusion.''

The name of the female employee is being withheld according to data privacy laws.

According to the investigative report, the female employee alleges that Raukar solicited sexual behavior in a telephone conversation at 1:07 a.m. on a day in February, while both were at an out-of-town event.

The News Tribune has learned that the event was Duluth Days in St. Paul.

According to a statement made in the report by the female, Raukar was at an event that lasted from late afternoon until about 9 p.m. After it ended, the report states, Raukar joined several other county employees at a bar, where three rounds of drinks were ordered.

According to the report, the female said she left the bar about 9:45 p.m. and was asleep in her room by 11 p.m.

At 1:07 a.m., the female said, her phone rang.

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The woman said she recognized Raukar's voice and that the caller identified himself as "Steve.''

According to her statement in the report, the caller did not sound intoxicated or slur words. However, she said that the caller's voice sounded like he had been drinking.

The caller, according to the woman's statement, made several unsolicited sexual remarks. When she refused his invitation to get together, the caller, whom she identified as Raukar, became angry.

The phone rang two times after the first call, but the woman said she did not answer.

The female also alleges that in 1998, Raukar called her from a conference he was attending, asked a work-related question and then asked whether she planned to attend an upcoming conference where they could have a few drinks, go dancing and party together.

Raukar, in a June 4 letter to St. Louis County Administrator Dana Frey, called information in the report, "inaccurate, untruthful, and containing substantive hearsay to the point it is extremely flawed.''

A person, unidentified in the report, who was with Raukar in his room at the time of the alleged calls, said that when Raukar was on the phone, he spoke for a short time and hung up. He then made a second call that was very short, according to the person's statement.

The report said the person did not hear Raukar make any comments of a sexual nature, and did not hear Raukar yell.

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Elizabeth Storaasli, an attorney with Dryer Storaasli Knutson & Pommerville, Ltd., of Duluth, conducted the investigation.

Recommendations for Raukar to be censured, attend harassment training, and write a letter of apology are from the county's civil service office. Richard Griffith is the county's acting civil service officer.

Raukar is represented by Alan Mitchell, a former county attorney.

Kron says he plans to ask the board to approve a code of conduct and ethics policy that would apply to board members.

It's also recommended that the board commit to having all commissioners attend discrimination, harassment and retaliation training.

Earlier this year, the board discussed a code of conduct and ethics policy, but did not approve one.

"Hopefully, this will mean it will be seen in a different light,'' Kron said. "We take violations of policy very seriously.''

Raukar said he would go along with the board in deciding on recommendations of the civil service officer.

"The board deliberations is what will determine that,'' Raukar said. "I will abide in whatever the board decides in that regard.''

Raukar, of Kelly Lake, has been a county commissioner since 1989.

A report from an investigation into a complaint filed against Commissioner Dennis Fink has not been released.

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