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Lawsuit Targets Former Klamath Open Door Clinic Director

Oct 18, 2004 | Herald and News

The outgoing CEO of Klamath Open Door Clinic has been named in an employment and sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by his former second in command for the clinic, an employee who was fired more than a year ago.

The lawsuit, filed by Kimberly Petersen, alleges CEO Brian O. Harris made offensive remarks about women, hired and fired women because of their looks, engaged in sexual relationships with employees he supervised, and fired Petersen for an improper reason.

The suit also alleges that three men associated with the clinic, Bob Marsalli, James Calvert and Montie Stembridge, falsely told community members or other organizations that Petersen had been fired. Marsalli is running for Klamath County commissioner, while Calvert is running for a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Marsalli said Harris is relocating to a medical clinic in North Carolina. The move, he said, was unrelated to the lawsuit. Klamath Open Door has selected a finalist to become CEO to replace Harris, whose last day was Friday.

Neither Calvert nor Marsalli would speculate on the timing of the lawsuit filed five weeks before the November election.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Medford on Sept. 24. The Herald and News learned about the suit last week after receiving an anonymous letter.

Petersen's suit states that she heard Harris refer to women in terms such as "a fat pig," "typical fat-girl syndrome," "a nice rack" and being "dikes". It says Harris fired a female dental office manager because the woman was a "fat pig" and "he could not stand looking at her."

It goes on to state that Harris was intimate with several female employees, and promoted at least one based on their relationship. It states that Harris interfered with a work performance evaluation of a female employee that Petersen supervised, and contends that Harris publicly yelled at Petersen and physically intimidated her.

The Herald and News was unable to reach Harris for a response.

The document alleges that Calvert told prospective employers for Petersen that she had been fired from the clinic and a previous job at a different clinic, Cascades East. The suit also charges that Marsalli told Petersen's prospective employers she had been fired and was not eligible for rehire.

Marsalli, the human resources director at the clinic, said he has not done anything wrong, and neither has the clinic.

"I don't know why people bring these suits forward," Marsalli said. "All I know is that these allegations are false and without grounds and we will vigorously defend against them."

Calvert also denied the charges.

"We don't see that we did any wrongdoing, and we plan on defending this completely," he said.

Both men referred further questions to the clinic's lawyer, Mark Hackett.

Hackett said the trial would probably take place in nine to 12 months, unless a judge dismisses it. He said he couldn't provide very many details because of the ongoing litigation.

While Hackett declined further comment, he did refer to a written response he filed to Petersen's complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Hackett denied most of Petersen's charges in his response to the Oregon bureau. He stated that Petersen lied to Harris about leaving work early one day and then tried to cover it up, resulting in her firing. He said the health clinic and Harris "vehemently deny each and every one" of the sexual discrimination claims. Hackett also said Harris denied making derogatory remarks about women.

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