Central Oregon Community College’s presidential search was derailed by events following a night of drinking among Chemeketa Community College administrators at a conference, according to a police report released Wednesday by the Port of Portland Police. The next morning, COCC’s top choice for president, Patrick Lanning, was asked by co-workers to leave the conference after a colleague said he entered her hotel room while she was intoxicated, though the claimant stated she could not remember exactly what happened.
According to the Port of Portland Police, which investigated the case, Lanning will not be charged with any crime. However, a tort claim notice was filed with Chemeketa on Feb. 24, indicating the claimant may sue the college “for acts of sexual abuse, or sexual contact” conducted by Lanning while the claimant “was physically helpless.”
Lanning, 48, is currently chief academic officer of instruction and student services for the Chemeketa Community College District and Yamhill Valley Campus president in McMinnville. The incident occurred during the evening hours of Feb. 6 and early morning hours of Feb. 7 at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel, which Lanning and other Chemeketa employees were at for the “2014 Annual Student Success & Retention Conference.”
COCC was poised to appoint Lanning its next president on March 17, but that same day announced its decision to postpone the vote. It was later revealed COCC’s decision was sparked by the discovery that Lanning had been placed on paid administrative leave in February and was under investigation by Chemeketa. During his interview with COCC on March 3 in Bend, Lanning never revealed he was on leave, nor did any Chemeketa employee interviewed by COCC mention the situation. Since then, the college has named an interim president and announced it will complete a new search next academic year.
Lanning refused to be interviewed by police and did not return a call for comment on Wednesday. Chemeketa Dean of Public Information Greg Harris also did not return a call for comment.
According to the police report, which includes interviews with the claimant and other Chemeketa employees present, the night began with drinks at the hotel’s club space followed by a trip to Famous Dave’s BBQ. The night ended at the hotel bar, where, according to the claimant and another Chemeketa employee, a male employee of COCC was present.
COCC’s spokesman, Ron Paradis, said he did not know who that employee was.
The claimant stated that while at the restaurant, Lanning encouraged her to drink more alcohol, saying, “(Y)ou are not drinking fast enough; you should have another drink.” Chemeketa Executive Dean of Career and Technical Education Johnny Mack said he recalled Lanning saying to the claimant, “I am ahead of you by one margarita; you need to catch up.”
At the hotel bar, multiple witnesses recounted seeing shot glasses on the table. During initial police interviews, the claimant stated she felt uncomfortable when Lanning began to pat her back. After he began rubbing her entire back, the claimant said she squeezed his knee “as a way to tell Mr. Lanning to stop.”
David Hallett, Chemeketa’s executive dean of general education and transfer studies, told police the interactions appeared to him “a little flirtatious.” Executive Dean of Student Development and Learning Resources Jim Eustrom stated it “appeared to him that they were cuddling and (seated) very close to each other.” At a later interview, the claimant said of her colleagues’ observations that she did not feel uncomfortable with Lanning’s advances: “Well if that is what they saw, then it must be true.”
Eventually, Manuel Guerra, the school’s dean of student retention and college life, asked if the claimant was OK. After she said no, Guerra offered to escort her to her hotel room. In the room, the claimant became upset, so Guerra went to the bar to bring another dean, Susan Murray, to help. Murray said the claimant was “very upset” and told her, “I’m very upset Patrick is going to come here.” While in the room, Guerra told police the phone rang, though no one was on the line after Murray answered. Murray offered to stay in the same room as the claimant, which she declined. Both Murray and Guerra said the claimant appeared coherent and able to understand their advice not to let anyone into the room.
According to surveillance footage from the elevator area, the police report states, “it appeared that Mr. Lanning proceeded towards her hotel room less than five minutes after she had spoken with” Guerra and Murray. No footage was available of the hallway where the claimant was staying.
The next morning, the claimant said she awoke naked and found Lanning’s glasses in her room, which she later threw away. She told police she does not remember anything after her conversation with Murray and Guerra, but “she had a feeling that Mr. Lanning had been in her hotel room” and she may have told him to leave, “but that it may have been a dream and that she did not remember for sure what took place in her hotel room.” During a different interview with police, when asked if she had consented to intercourse, the claimant replied, “Not that I know of. If there was, I have no recollection of that room other than the feeling he was there.”
A rape kit was completed, but Port of Portland Police redacted much of the forensic evidence included in the police report.
Both Mack and Murray recall the claimant telling them the following day that she had let Lanning into her room, but that she did not remember what happened next. When they encountered her in the morning, the claimant was crying. Murray soon told the other deans in attendance what had happened and they decided to tell Lanning to leave the conference since the claimant “did not feel safe.” According to one dean, after being informed of the decision, Lanning stated, “I’m so sorry, but she invited me into her room.”
Police sent their report to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. According to Port of Portland media relations manager Steve Johnson, no charges will be brought against Lanning.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org