Oregon Health & Science University will be paying $2,065 an hour for the services of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, as Holder and another lawyer investigate bias and discrimination at the flagship institution.
OHSU, in response to a Lund Report public records request, on Friday released its with Holder and the law firm at which he is a senior partner: Covington & Burling, based in Washington, D.C.
Under the agreement, OHSU will also pay $1,300 an hour for the services of another Covington lawyer, Nancy Kestenbaum, a former federal prosecutor.
The letter does not spell out how many hours the two will work, or whether there is a cost cap or some other limit on how much the investigation will cost OHSU.
“The overall cost of the investigation is difficult to predict and will depend on a number of factors, including the number of community members who contact the (OHSU) Hotline. We anticipate that the cost may be significant; however, we are prepared to bear the cost as a crucial and necessary investment in OHSU and its people, which is OHSU's greatest asset,” said OHSU spokesperson Tamara Hargen-Bradley.“We are confident that Covington's work will result in a comprehensive and independent analysis that would otherwise be impossible,” she said.
Holder was attorney general for President Barack Obama. OHSU has said that it needs a well-respected investigator to help the administration achieve its objective of creating an anti-racist and inclusive culture that was free of harassment.
Holder returned to work as a partner at Covington when he left the Obama administration in 2015. Covington, headquartered in Washington D.C., has offices worldwide, including in London, Brussels, Beijung, Johannesburg, Seoul and Dubai. Stateside, Holder has years of experience conducting workplace investigations.
As a former federal prosecutor, Kestenbaum has investigated reports of sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination for other educational institutions.
The agreement letter says that Holder and Kestenbaum, plus possibly other Covington lawyers, or lawyers from other firms, will investigate inequitable treatment based on race, religion, gender and other classes. They will also investigate how OHSU should handle reports of bias and inequitable treatment in the future. It says the firm will help OHSU comply with federal Title IX and other laws, to help the university prepare for potential litigation.
The letter doesn't designate a work timeline.
At least three women have sued OHSU for gender bias in recent years. A former employee filed a sexual assault lawsuit against the institution earlier this year. It accuses a former anesthesiology resident, Dr. Jason Campbell, the TikTok doc, of sending the victim harassing text messages, social media messages and pornographic photographs. It says he also came into her office at the Portland Veterans Affairs hospital next to OHSU and pushed her into a desk with his erection.
The lawsuit alleges that OHSU was complicit, ignoring sexual harassment complaints about Campbell while fostering an environment that protected abuses and retaliated against victims. It said several faculty members, including Dr. Esther Choo, an emergency department professor and nationally known advocate for women's rights, knew about the harassment but failed to report it as required by OHSU rules. OHSU has denied the claims. Campbell has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
You can reach Christian Wihtol at [email protected].