Three Portland-area women say they were subjected to unwanted sexual misconduct from Gordon Sondland, the businessman-turned-European Union ambassador for the U.S. who is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
The three women said they faced professional retaliation after they rebuffed Sondland's advances, according to a story published Wednesday by Portland Monthly and ProPublica. One woman said the hotel magnate suddenly appeared naked from the waist down when she went to a business meeting at his home. Another said he forcibly tried to kiss her after she tried to hastily leave a bar. And another said he grabbed her face and tried to forcibly kiss her.
Sondland denied any wrongdoing. In a statement he charged that these “untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes.”
Sondland has become a key figure in the House impeachment hearings as he has directly tied Trump to attempts to condition U.S. military aid to Ukraine on that country’s willingness to investigate political rival Joe Biden.
The three women — Martha Vogel, Natalie Sept and Jana Solis — all agreed to be named in the story. They recounted unwanted advances being made as they were involved in business activities with Sondland and his hotel chain.
Vogel, the publisher of Portland Monthly, was quoted in the story as saying she was not involved in the editing or writing of the story and was interviewed by a ProPublica reporter.
Vogel met Sondland in the early 2000s when she was raising investment money to start her magazine. She said he was helpful at first and invited her out to dinner where he said he would invest. He then said he wanted to show her one of his properties, Hotel Lucia, that was across the street.
While showing her one of the rooms, according to the article, Sondland requested a hug and then tried to forcibly kiss Vogel as she attempted to move away. Later, Sondland declined to invest in the magazine.
Solis told the journalists that she met Sondland while doing hospitality safety work for an insurance company, and he agreed to do business with her. She said after meeting, he slapped her on the rear end. Solis said she didn’t want to lose the business account, so she later agreed to go to his home to examine his expensive art. She used a bathroom and then found him in a pool room, naked from the waist down.
Months later, she said he forcibly grabbed and kissed her while they were at a Seattle hotel. After that encounter, Solis said, Sondland ended his business ties with her.
Sept said she was first introduced to Sondland by Portland Commissioner Nick Fish, who had received political support from the hotel owner. Sept, who had been Fish’s campaign manager, wound up having several meetings with Sondland. She said he talked about potential professional opportunities for her, including a job with the Oregon state film board.
Sept said she was in a bar with him one night and it became clear that he was seeking a sexual relationship. She said she told him she had to go home. He walked her to her car, when she said he attempted to kiss her while she pushed him off. She never heard any more about the film job.
After the article was published online, Fish announced in a Facebook post that he is donating to charity the $1,500 in campaign contributions he received from Sondland.
Fish said he was “outraged by Mr. Sondland’s pattern of inappropriate behavior.” Fish told OPB that he trusted Sept's account and did not think she was trying to seek publicity.
Sondland’s Portland attorney, Jim McDermott, was quoted several times in the article saying that Sondland denied the details of the women’s accounts.
Sondland said there was never mention of these accounts to him during the period of more than a decade when they occurred. “These false accounts are at odds with my character,” he said.