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About 20 investigations of abuse, harassment open at Arizona agencies

(Flickr/Ted Eytan)

PHOENIX —  There have been about 20 open investigations into inappropriate behavior at state agencies throughout Arizona since 2015, according to documents obtained by KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The reports of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation has plagued agencies including the economic security, game and fish and gaming departments, Arizona Lottery, Arizona State Parks, state medical board and more.

The incidents range from male supervisors asking female interns to sleep in the same room as them, people in management carrying guns to work, threatening supervisors and one manager who told a female employee “I’ve always wanted to change clothes in the dark with you.”

The reports are part of ongoing investigations and processes.

The 127 pages of open investigations came after KTAR News 92.3 FM obtained records that showed Arizona taxpayers coughed up just shy of $2 million to settle 24 sexual harassment claims in the last decade.

Labor and employment attorney Chris Mason, a partner at the Valley-based Jennings-Straus said, allegations across the country have one aspect in common: Power.

“Everybody from Rep. [Trent] Franks to Sen. Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey — even to some extent the some of the allegations against President Donald Trump — they all have this one element of commonality and that is these are people in positions of tremendous power,” he said.

Some of these individuals have been accused of harassing employees for decades, Mason said, adding that “it shows you how long those in these positions of power may have felt at liberty to engage in this kind of conduct.”

Related: All 33,000 Arizona state workers required to get harassment training

In positions of power, sometimes an individual exerts so much control over their subordinates that they feel like they can get away with it, Mason said.

“The flip side [of] why these things are so damaging and so devastating is that those who are subordinate to those in positions of power may feel powerless that they [don’t] have any ability to come forward and stand up for themselves or protect their rights, or that if they speak out that they’re going to face retribution for it.”

But right now is a wake up call for all of those in positions of power, Mason said.

“They need to be professional,” Mason said. “They need [be] much more on guard to ensure that the things that they’re saying and the things that they’re doing don’t intimidate the people they work with.”

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