Umatilla County prosecutor denies official misconduct

PENDLETON -- The prosecutor for Umatilla County says he is innocent of any wrongdoing, one day after the state alleged he used his office to obtain sexual gratification and then attempted to cover it up.

County District Attorney Dean Gushwa is accused of subjecting a female employee to physical, sexual and emotional abuse from December 2008 to April 2010. He was charged by the state justice department with five misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.

"It is important to remember that these charges were not reviewed by a grand jury," Gushwa told the East Oregonian newspaper. "They are merely the opinion of someone sitting in an office somewhere in Salem, and I have no idea how that person could have come by that opinion."

The East Oregonian first reported the employee's complaint. Gushwa took a leave from office in August.

According to the complaint against Gushwa, he had sexual contact with the employee four times between Dec. 1, 2008, and July 18 this year. The state also claimed Gushwa tried to obtain another person's silence or cooperation during the same time, but did not identify the other person.

The employee also filed a civil rights complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in which she accuses Gushwa of sexual assault -- alleging Gushwa assaulted her twice, as recently as August of this year -- and said he forced her to engage in sexual acts with him "under threat of physical force and retribution in the workplace."

In the Oct. 27 complaint to the labor bureau, the employee said she felt coerced into a relationship with Gushwa when he asked her to begin one in 2008.

"Due to his position of authority over me, I agreed," she said in the labor bureau complaint.

She said that since she reported the accusations to police, her co-workers have treated her differently and targeted her for extra work.

Gushwa is scheduled for an arraignment on Nov. 23 in state court in Pendleton.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger has said he wants introduce a bill in the 2011 Legislature that changes official misconduct to a felony crime.