State education administrator fired after complaints
The Oregon Department of Education has fired a high-ranking administrator with little fanfare after mounting complaints about alleged bullying and harassment of colleagues and questions about his attempts to use state education money for a special program in Lake Oswego.
Until March 12, Mitch Kruska had been director of programs, secondary transition and alternative assessment for the state education department, meaning he was responsible for oversight of numerous aspects of special education and programs for potentially vulnerable students, such as incarcerated youth.
In a letter to Kruska dated March 9 and obtained by OPB through a public records request, state leaders told Kruska he was being dismissed for "inability or unwillingness to fully and faithfully perform the duties of the position satisfactorily." The 12-page dismissal letter was signed by the head of the Oregon Department of Education, Deputy Superintendent Colt Gill. It's part of an investigative file totaling hundreds of pages released to OPB on April 13 in response to a public records request.
OPB reported in December that Kruska had inappropriately touched and had unprofessional discussions with a junior female employee and her partner at a bar during an out-of-town education conference, according to investigative records.
ODE had investigated Kruska's behavior and substantiated several allegations from that conference in June 2016, which later-released documents show to have taken place in Seaside, Oregon.
Kruska, who witnesses said may have been drunk at the time, was reported to have made homophobic comments such as telling the women that, "Lesbians aren't really gay, they're just desperate." He also insinuated sexual interest in the junior ODE employee, telling her he liked "beautiful strong women" and that the employee was "on [his] list."
As Kruska, the employee and her partner prepared to leave the bar, Kruska slapped the employee on the butt, according to the ODE investigation.