A former high-ranking Ramsey County official has been hired by a federal agency for a leadership position one year after he resigned under fire amid accusations that he sexually harassed and created an intolerable workplace environment for a female employee.
Paul Allwood joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 1 as the head of the agency's lead poisoning prevention branch and will have about 16 staff members reporting to him.
The county confronted Allwood on March 2, 2020, with a 66-page report from an outside investigation that substantiated an allegation that he bullied and berated a female worker.
Rather than be put on paid administrative leave, Allwood resigned on the spot from his $180,000-a-year job after about 15 months as deputy manager of health and wellness, which has a staff of about 2,000.
The report also reached "conclusions of fact" that Allwood and the woman "were having an intimate sexual relationship," but the investigator stopped short of saying the relationship violated the county's sexual harassment policy.
The CDC contacted county officials and inquired about the investigation before hiring Allwood, but the agency did not request a copy of the report, said county spokesman John Siqveland.
Erik Svendsen, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, exchanged e-mails in October with Ramsey County Human Resources Director Gail Blackstone about hiring Allwood.
In the exchange, provided to the Star Tribune by the county, Svendsen was told that Allwood violated the county's workplace policy but not its sexual harassment policy.
Svendsen then asked whether Allwood was disciplined or subjected to legal consequence based on the investigation's findings, and Blackstone replied "no."
The CDC has declined to explain why it did not ask for the investigative report and would only confirm to the Star Tribune that Allwood joined the agency on March 1.
For his part, Allwood last week said the allegations "were entirely false. ... It's really been tremendously traumatic to watch all of my record of service suddenly be destroyed by people who had business other than self-interest."
While with the county, Allwood oversaw social services, financial assistance programs and public health policy. He also has served as an assistant state health commissioner and director of occupational health and safety at the University of Minnesota.
The 56-year-old Allwood, who holds a doctorate in public health from the U, said the CDC put him through an "extensive review and background check" before offering him the position.
"I've never been vetted as much as I have for this job," he said. "I came through with flying colors."
Ramsey County released to the Star Tribune a copy of the investigative report, which details what someone who answered to Allwood found disturbing enough to lodge a complaint. According to the two-month investigation's findings:
The complaint centered on Allwood allegedly being verbally, physically and emotionally abusive to the woman, who worked in the same area of county government but did not answer directly to him.
The complainant said the woman told him that she and Allwood were in a long-running "intimate sexual relationship" and it was burdening her. She said they often argued and he would call her profane names.
An investigator asked the woman several questions based on the allegations, and she at first denied Allwood mistreated her. But once shown text messages of hers to the man who made the complaint, she acknowledged that Allwood "cuts deep" with improper comments and "needs more tact."
Allwood denied to the investigator that he exhibited any inappropriate workplace behavior but may have spoken to her with a "strong voice."
He also denied having a sexual relationship with the woman, despite the investigation concluding otherwise.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482