Crime

Inside Complaints Against Colorado Mountain Club Over Former Exec's Sex Crimes

The Colorado Mountain Club is located in Golden's American Mountaineering Center.
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The Colorado Mountain Club is located in Golden's American Mountaineering Center.
In late October, Chun Min Chiang, a former executive with the Colorado Mountain Club, was hit with 24 criminal charges, including stalking and invasion of privacy for purposes of sexual gratification. He subsequently agreed to a deal with the First Judicial District DA's Office, and on April 22, he formally pleaded guilty to the lead accusation against him, second-degree burglary with a sexual factual basis, a felony, as well as to posting private images for purpose of sexual harassment, a misdemeanor. His sentence: ten years in prison.

But the case is far from over for the Colorado Mountain Club and the American Alpine Club, which co-own the American Mountaineering Center at 710 10th Street in Golden, where Chiang worked. Eight individuals represented by attorney Paula Greisen of Denver-based King Greisen LLP have filed discrimination charges against the entities with the Colorado Civil Rights Division — actions that are often precursors to lawsuits.

The filing notes that after Chiang's arrest, officers with the Golden Police Department said they'd found as many as 13,000 videos "that appeared to involve females being recorded without their knowledge in restrooms, fitting rooms, and up their skirts at various locations." Greisen's clients contend that the Colorado Mountain Club failed to protect them despite two previous, and well-publicized, arrests of Chiang involving so-called "Peeping Tom photos" taken with hidden cameras, and also that the club retaliated against workers who complained about Chiang — even after he was fired in 2019.

 "The Colorado Mountain Club denies the allegations in the charges," CMC executive director Keegan Young says.

Chiang had racked up a considerable history of illegal activity before 2008, when he was hired by the CMC to head up the finance and IT departments, as well as handle matters related to human resources. A cache of reports filed in Boulder County circa 2005 and 2006 supported 29 charges filed against Chiang — including multiple invasion-of-privacy and third-degree-assault beefs — over surreptitious photos that appeared to have been taken at University of Colorado Boulder settings such as the CU Bookstore and the Norlin Library. A supplemental 2005 report detailed a conversation between a Boulder investigator and Chiang's probation officer, who confirmed that she'd earlier had him busted "on a violation of his probation that stemmed from a previous [2004] conviction in which he had installed a camera under a female co-worker's desk."

Nonetheless, in a statement provided to Westword in July 2021, the CMC insisted that club administrators had no idea about Chiang's prior convictions, nor his status as a registered sex offender, when he was hired.

The discrimination charges filed by Greisen's clients suggest that other problems were all too apparent. (Westword isn't using their names because the case involves alleged sexual victimization.) For instance, one woman hired as a seasonal stewardship crew leader in May 2018 and as a full-time program coordinator in December 2018 contends that "CMC's management was aware that Chiang had full access to all sensitive employee information and to the building that housed the organization and took no steps to supervise his conduct, despite knowing that Chiang often engaged in intimidating and bullying behavior and told staff that he had essentially complete power to get employees fired if they crossed him."

As early as 2016, she maintains, CMC's former education director told Young's predecessor as executive director that Chiang had made "inappropriate comments and sexual advances toward another employee," and said that he wanted to "stick his pen in company ink." Even after the woman left her job with the club, he kept sending her emails asserting "that he wanted to marry her and have babies with her, and asking if he could personally deliver items to her new home," she recalls. The ex-education director is said to have reported this conduct to the executive director, "but no action was taken against Chiang," according to the filing.

Other examples of "sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace" cited in the document include "sending an email to the staff with a girl wearing a shirt that said 'I am a Whore' and giving one employee a 'gift' of the Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated at an office party. Chiang also sent company-wide emails (that included management) mocking the concept of sexual harassment trainings."
click to enlarge The March 2021 booking photo of Chun Min Chiang. - WAUKESHA POLICE DEPARTMENT VIA GOLDEN POLICE DEPARTMENT
The March 2021 booking photo of Chun Min Chiang.
Waukesha Police Department via Golden Police Department

In 2018, the filing states, Chiang "got access to one female employee's home while she was out of town and planted video recording devices in her bedroom," then "posted these videos on pornographic websites." He also "sent her a text stating 'penis, penis penis' and another time asked her if she was wearing underwear" — and when she rejected his advances, he retaliated by "criticizing her work, harassing her for alleged inadequacies and refusing to talk to her."

The complaint contends that the staffer whose home had been invaded reported Chiang's behavior to executive director Young, who was leaving for a one-month vacation — and in his absence, he put Chiang in charge. While he was gone, Chiang's harassment escalated to the point that an investigation was launched. According to the filing, after Chiang was told about the inquiry, he "set up additional cameras pointed up skirts under the tables in the room where questioning occurred."

Chiang was eventually given what's described as "a generous settlement package" to leave the CMC. In contrast, the complaint says that a woman Chiang had harassed and secretly filmed was fired in 2020 and only given a bonus she was owed after signing "a release of claims."

Despite his ouster, Chiang apparently still had access to the club's computer system, and in October 2020, a link popped up on its Instagram account that connected viewers to a porn site featuring a video recorded by the bedroom camera of the former employee; it showed her undressing in front of her mirror.

In February 2021, that ex-program coordinator says in the filing, "I learned from law enforcement that for several years, Chiang had planted cameras and recording devices around the CMC office, under my desk and the desk of other female employees, and in the female restroom where female employees changed clothes. ... Chiang took pictures and recordings of myself and other women at CMC with these devices for several years, including multiple videos of me in the CMC restroom with my pants down."

That month, she goes on, "CMC finally told its employees that Chiang had in fact placed multiple cameras in the building and the general nature of what he had done. Initially, CMC's management appeared to be sympathetic to the extreme shock and emotional distress suffered by myself and other employees. CMC agreed to give us paid time off to deal with the emotional distress and promised to take steps to determine what other electronic devices had been hacked by Chiang to ensure our protection." But in her view, the club "refused to take steps to ensure our workplace was safe, refused to conduct sweeps of electronic devices to give us meaningful information about what happened, and depleted our individual PTO time."

After her paid time off was exhausted, she says, "I was retaliated against for complaining about the hostile work environment and my requests that it protect us by being constructively discharged from my job on May 14, 2021."

In a current statement to Westword,  Young says the club is "limiting the information it will share publicly" to protect the privacy of its former employees, including those who "do not seek media attention."

According to Young, "The Colorado Mountain Club swiftly responded to the claim of sexual harassment made against Chun Chiang by immediately investigating the claim when it was made and terminating Chiang’s employment. Several of the individuals who have brought charges against the Colorado Mountain Club were directly involved in the reporting and investigation of Chiang’s conduct, and assisted with the termination of his employment. Notably, the Colorado Mountain Club was not aware of any of the conduct asserted in the criminal case during Chiang’s employment."

Young emphasizes: "The Colorado Mountain Club became aware of Chiang’s criminal conduct after the following series of events: 1) The Colorado Mountain Club’s Instagram page was hacked; 2) The Colorado Mountain Club immediately reported this hack to law enforcement; 3) Months later, law enforcement advised the Colorado Mountain Club that the Colorado Mountain Club’s report had led to a much broader investigation into Chiang’s potential criminal activity; and 4) Another month later, law enforcement advised the Colorado Mountain Club about the fuller extent of Chiang’s criminal conduct."

Once Young and other managers became aware of Chiang's illegal activities, he says, "We provided all staff with twenty additional days of PTO to be used at any time to create the space needed to heal, process, and protect the mental health of our team. In addition to the extra paid time off, all employees that did not feel comfortable to return to work were permitted to exhaust all of their accrued PTO as well as the sick time provided as part of CMC employee benefits. Once all paid time was exhausted, unpaid leave was also permitted for as long as was needed. The Colorado Mountain Club further provided opportunities for counseling services, offered new computers and LifeLock memberships, and offered to have professionals screen homes for surveillance devices. Despite these measures, some employees chose to not return to work with the Colorado Mountain Club. The Colorado Mountain Club became aware that these employees had decided to not return to work after these employees filed for unemployment after the exhaustion of all of their paid leave.

"The Colorado Mountain Club continues to stand with the victims of Chiang’s despicable criminal acts," Young says, adding that he hopes the guilty plea and imprisonment "will begin to bring closure for Chiang’s victims."

Click to read Chun Min Chiang's 2021 Jefferson County arrest warrant, the 2005-2006 Boulder County documents, and the charges of discrimination against Colorado Mountain Club.