CHARLESTON — The reason for the transfer of a long-time Division of Transportation employee to another division of state government has apparetly become known. A number of statehouse elected officials and others had complained when Howard Mullens was unexpectedly transferred from the Division of Highways position he had held for years to the state Division of Tax and Revenue. The transfer occurred a few weeks ago.
Many lawmakers described Mullens as their “go-to guy” in Highways, which is a part of the Division of Transportation. Mullens was regularly seen in the halls of the capitol during legislative sessions and a number of legislators and others turned to him when questions arose concerning roads and bridges in their districts.
At the time, the governor’s office was silent on Mullens’s transfer, with some officials appearing not to know it had even occurred.
Now, however, a lawsuit has been filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court that may at least partially explain the decision.
Denise L. Gould, 48, of Charleston, has sued the DOT claiming she was sexually assaulted by Mullens, a fellow DOT employee.
In the September 24 filing, Gould says that on July 24, Mullens, who is described as a supervisor with DOT, physically assaulted her in a sexually offensive manner. Those familiar with the case say the incident occurred on an elevator.
The suit, filed on Gould’s behalf by Mark A. Atkinson of the firm Atkinson & Polak, PLLC, maintains that Mullens had been reported to DOT officials on other occasions because of similar behavior. Despite her complaint and those of others, DOH continued to employee Mullens, the suit says. It did not make reference to Mullens’ transfer to the Tax Division.
Gould’s suit claims Mullens’ actions created a hostile work environment and violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act.
The plaintiff alleges she has suffered emotional distress, indignity, embarrassment, humiliation, inconvenience and humiliation.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey.
Gould is the widow of the late Robert “Bob” Gould, who in 1992 was the Republican nominee for West Virginia Attorney General. Gould lost a tight race that was not without controversy to former Democrat Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
There was nobody available in the Governor’s office to immediately respond to inquiries concerning Mullens’ current status. He did not respond to repeated messages left on a cell phone listed to him and answered by his voice. There was no listing in the Charleston phone directory for Gould. It was not immediately clear if she is still employed by DOT.