Blue Mountain Community College Denies Allegations in $1M Lawsuit

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Blue Mountain Community College has pushed back against a the $1 million lawsuit from a former employee who claims the college fired her after she exposed another custodian for sexually harassing and stalking her.

Attorneys Jason Rittereiser and Carla Grabarek, with the firm HKM Employment Attorneys, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer Smutz on May 9 in Umatilla County Circuit Court. BMCC through its lawyer, Rebekah R. Jacobson, with Garrett Hemann Robertson P.C., in Salem, filed its defense June 11, asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Smutz in her lawsuit states BMCC hired her in December 2016 as a custodian at its Pendleton campus. Blue Mountain in its response admitted Smutz worked for the college as did her supervisor.

The response also agreed Smutz’s last day of employment with the college was June 14, 2023. Those two points are almost all the college agreed with in Smutz’s 23-page lawsuit.

The college in its eight-page response denied her allegations that William Singlton harassed, scared and stalked her. The college also denied her allegation that Singlton recorded and monitored fellow employees and vandalized coworkers’ personal property and/or college property in retaliation for people he believed wronged him.

The college, however, did join Smutz in the demand for a jury trial. But it asserts Smutz is not entitled to damages, and the college will oppose any motion to amend the lawsuit to seek punitive damages.

“Plaintiff will be unable to present admissible evidence that would allow a reasonable juror to find that the College was liable for some or all of the claims asserted in Plaintiff’s Complaint,” the response states.

The college also asserts the lawsuit is subject to the Oregon Tort Claims Act, which sets limitations on liability of local public bodies for personal injury and death.

Smutz failed to mitigate the damages she alleges, according to the response, and her claims “call for the performance of or failure to perform discretionary acts” for which the college is immune from liability under Oregon law.

The response also states BMCC continues to investigate the allegations Smutz raised in her complaint, and the college “reserves the right to add additional affirmative defenses as discovery proceeds.”

The college asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice and award it for the cost of defending itself plus other relief the court deems proper.

Circuit Judge Robert Collins is presiding over the case. Court records show he has a conference call with the attorneys from the two sides scheduled for today, Friday, July 5.

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