Three women have come forward to publicly accuse Gordon Sondland of sexual misconduct before the prominent businessman became the US ambassador to the European Union.
The women shared their stories in a lengthy report that was jointly published Wednesday by ProPublica and the Portland Monthly.
The alleged instances spanned seven years from 2003 to 2010 with women who believed they were attending business-related outings with Sondland, the founder and CEO of the Provenance Hotels chain, which has 19 hotels in Portland, Ore. and across the country.
The married Sondland, 62, who last week served as a key witness in the Democrats’ House impeachment probe, has denied all of the allegations.
One woman, Nicole Vogel, says she met Sondland in 2003. Vogel was looking to launch her own magazine, and Sondland agreed to help point her to potential advertising and investor connections.
Soon after, Vogel recounted, the two dined together at a steakhouse called El Gaucho in Portland, where Sondland said he’d like to invest his own money into her magazine.
After dinner, Sondland insisted on heading across the street to Hotel Lucia, owned by Sondland’s company Provenance. Once inside, Sondland allegedly suggested they should check out one of the rooms.
The two did that and when Vogel tried to leave, she told Pro Publica, “Sondland’s voice stopped her.”
“I remember seeing my hand drop from the door handle,” she said. “I turned around, and he’s standing right behind me, and he says, ‘Can I just have a hug first?’”
Instead, she gave him a friendly pat. Then, Vogel alleged, “as I pulled back, he grabs my face and goes to kiss me.”
Vogel said she deflected the attempted kiss.
“‘Ooh Gordon, you’re a married man, and you’d just break my heart,’” Vogel said she told Sondland, a line meant to preserve his ego.
Vogel told a friend, Craig Sweitzer, and her sister about the alleged encounter. The two met again at a restaurant a few weeks later for lunch, where they intended to hash out the investment details.
On the drive back, Vogel recalled, Sondland placed his hand “on her mid-thigh and left it there for 10 or so minutes,” the report said. “God, I would love to have told him to shove it. To have kneed him in the balls,” she says.
Days before Sondland’s prospective investment was due`, he sent her an email backing out.
“In checking further, I have determined that the Lucia cannot participate under your very creative structure,” read part of Sondland’s email.
Sondland’s lawyer told the outlets the turn of events was simply business.
Another woman, Jana Solis, says she met Sondland in 2008 when she worked as a hospitality safety engineer for Marsh & McLennan.
A colleague of Solis’ arranged for her to meet with Sondland in the hopes of acquiring a new client for their company.
Solis and Sondland dined together at Pazzo Ristorante, where, “[Sondland] was flirting through the lunch, and ends up just saying, ‘OK, I’ve heard enough,’” Solis alleged.
Sondland hired her, saying, “‘You’re my new hotel chick,’” Solis said.
Then as they were leaving, Solis said, Sondland, “slap[ed] me on the ass and said, ‘I look forward to working with you.’”
Sondland’s lawyer said his client denied slapping Solis.
At a later date, Sondland invited Solis to his West Hills home so she can “evaluate his personal art collection.”
At one point during the tour, Solis was leaving the pool house when Sondland allegedly exposed himself to her.
“I get out to the pool house, and he is now naked from the waist down,” Solis alleged. “He said something about, ‘I thought we could chat.’ And I said something, trying to keep his ego intact… I said something like, ‘I can’t have that conversation.’”
Sondland put his pants back on and drove her home, Solis said.
The two met once more several months later when Solis was holding staff training sessions at Sondland’s hotels, including the Roosevelt Hotel in Seattle.
There, Sondland invited her up penthouse, which he said he needed her to see, she recalled.
Once inside, while sitting on the couch with a glass wine, Sondland allegedly forcibly kisses her.
“The next thing I know, he’s all over me,” she recalled. “He’s on top of me. He’s kissing me, shoving his tongue down my throat. And I’m trying to wiggle out from under him…,” alleged Solis.
After breaking free, Solis remembered telling Sondland: “‘Gordon, I’m not sure what else to say. You know, I really, really want to do business with you, but I’m not sure we can. I don’t know what your issues are, but I am telling you, I cannot make them mine.’”
A few days later, Sondland allegedly called Sotis screaming about her job performance. But Solis believes it had nothing to with insurance issues, instead, she said, “He was pissed. He didn’t get his way.”
The two never spoke again after the call and Solis stopped working with him.
Natalie Sept is the third woman alleging Sondland of sexual misconduct. She said she met Sondland in 2010 while working as a campaign manager for a Portland city councilman. Her boss connected them.
Sept said the two met at Hotel deLuxe, also owned by Provenance, where Sondland “promised me huge opportunities, and the chance to work with the governor.”
“I was so starry-eyed about all of these institutions and people and power associated with these kinds of opportunities,” Sept said. “I was convinced it was something he could help me attain.”
Down the road, Sondland invited Sept to El Gaucho to chat about a possible job opportunity.
After dinner, which consisted more of family talk than business dealings, the two went to a cocktail bar.
Once he requested she sit next to him, Sept said she had to leave. Sondland said he’d walk her to her car.
“He keeps insisting, and I’m nervous and afraid and I don’t want to make a scene, so I say, ‘OK, fine,’” Sept said.
Sondland then leaned in for a hug once they arrived to her car.
“So I give him a quick hug and he holds onto my shoulders and looks at me and pushes himself into me and tries to kiss me.” Sept said she pushed Sondlad away and fled in her car.
She never heard from Sondland again about the possible job.
Sondland, in a statement responding to the allegations, said, “In decades of my career in business and civic affairs, my conduct can be affirmed by hundreds of employees and colleagues with whom I have worked in countless circumstances.”
“These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes. They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them.”
Sondland’s lawyer said in a letter, “what each of these three women share in common is that they pursued Ambassador Sondland for financial and personal gain — an investment, a job, and insurance brokerage work — and he declined their proposals.”