Interior Department official retains six-figure salary during 16-month leave after rape allegations
An official with the Interior Department’s Indian Education bureau retains a six-figure salary despite being on administrative leave for over a year for allegedly raping an employee.
According to Government Executive magazine, Eric Christensen, the erstwhile vice president of the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute community college in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been accused of harassing multiple female employees and raping a subordinate. One of the women, former SIPI teacher Margaret Pictou, said he earned the nickname “Creepersen” for his lewd behavior towards his staff.
Former SIPI employee ReGina Zuni also told Government Executive that she was sexually assaulted by Christensen in 2015. She initially did not report the rape to the police out of fear of retribution as she’d seen with another employee who accused Christensen, and when she did in 2016, she was moved to a windowless office to do routine administrative work. Soon after, Zuni was placed on administrative leave — a month before Christensen himself was put on leave.
Bureau of Indian Affairs architectural official Barbara Borgeson has also accused Christensen of sexually inappropriate behavior. In 2016, she held a teleconference to discuss a five-year plan for her division when she caught part of a “pornographic chat with lewd language and graphic sexual descriptions” by one of her supervisors, who was sharing his screen from Washington, D.C. She reported the incident to the BIA’s IT team, and two months later, was sent to the same office, nicknamed “Siberia,” as Zuni.
While there, Borgeson said she was “cornered” by two men in her office just before the same supervisor with the pornographic chat was put on unpaid leave. She also had run-ins with Christensen, who she said never touched her, but “more than once he pressured her to disparage colleagues who had accused him of wrongdoing.”
Christensen denied the allegations when contacted by Government Executive, and told them “there’s a big difference between verbal abuse and rape.”
Raw Story has reached out to the Bureau of Indian Education for comment about Christiansen and will update this story with their response.
(Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated two employees had accused Eric Christensen of rape.)