BOISE — A former Idaho State Controller’s Office employee has filed a claim alleging a supervisor who recently left two state jobs sexually and racially harassed her and discriminated against her. The head of the Controller’s Office let the harassment continue, she says.
In her claim against the state, Lourdes Matsumoto specifically cites the actions of recently departed Chief of Staff Dan Goicoechea and elected State Controller Brandon Woolf. Matsumoto says she was hired as a deputy legal counsel and executive assistant to Woolf, but claims she was never allowed to serve in a role of counsel and that Woolf ceded his duties — including apparent oversight of her — to Goicoechea.
She lists numerous alleged examples of abusive language and violent acts by Goicoechea, in conversations involving her and/or multiple third parties. She accuses Woolf of either condoning or doing nothing to address that behavior.
Among the allegations:
▪ Goicoechea regularly talked about his sexual escapades and made possible sexual advances toward Matsumoto.
▪ Goicoechea made violent threats. In one instance, Matsumoto says Goicoechea made a comment about murdering people if something happened to one of his family members. Matsumoto tried to laugh it off as a joke, but she says Woolf, who was present at the time, told her Goicoechea was serious. Matsumoto also says Goicoechea carried a firearm to work and on several occasions showed it to her “to further threaten and intimidate her.”
▪ On July 14, one week before she resigned, Matsumoto said Goicoechea admonished her in a tense conversation for telling Woolf about a Department of Labor request to visit the controller’s office. According to the claim, “His face was red, his body posture was tense, his hands were clenched into fists, he leaned menacingly towards Ms. Matsumoto … and said, ‘You need to shut the (expletive) up and say ‘Yes, sir’ to me.’”
The tort claim was filed Monday by Matsumoto’s attorney, Lauren Scholnick with Strindberg and Scholnick. Such a claim serves as the precursor to a possible lawsuit.
The document says Matsumoto will release her claim if Goicoechea is removed from any supervisory role in state government, all Controller’s Office employees undergo harassment and discrimination training, the Controller’s Office changes its approach to handling internal grievances and harassment reports, and she receives a lump sum payment of $191,500.
All of this would have to happen by this Friday, Sept. 22.
Idaho statute gives the state 90 days to respond to the claim, either affirming or denying it.
Strindberg and Scholnick is the same law firm that represented Idaho State Police employee Brandon Eller and former Idaho Transportation Department Director Pam Lowe in their successful whistleblower claims against the state.
After serving 15 years as chief deputy to the last three state controllers, Goicoechea resigned earlier this year from the Controller’s Office to take a position as deputy for governmental affairs for the State Department of Education. Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra announced his new role on Aug. 14.
Goicoechea then resigned from the Department of Education this Monday, Sept. 18, the same day Matsumoto filed her claim.
The Controller’s Office expects to release a statement on Matsumoto’s claims later Wednesday.
Ybarra declined comment, with spokeswoman Allison Westfall calling Goicoechea’s departure this week “a confidential personnel matter.”
The Statesman has also reached out to Goicoechea for comment.