A Denver oil tycoon fighting his family for control of his fortune is fending off allegations he repeatedly groped, harassed or sexually assaulted four former female employees.
Three women, one the former personal assistant to 85-year-old Jack Grynberg, allege in the Douglas County case that in 2015 and 2016 they were groped and harassed — one alleging she was forced to have sex with him multiple times — in return for keeping their jobs at Grynberg Petroleum Co. in Denver. Ultimately, they say, they were fired for refusing him.
All three also have named two Grynberg company officers as defendants, saying they did nothing to prevent the encounters — one of the officers allegedly told one of the women to keep quiet for fear they’d all lose their jobs — and advised them “never to be alone” with Grynberg.
A fourth woman, employed by Grynberg about four decades ago, has come forward with similar allegations but is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit. She has filed an affidavit in the case about her experiences.
At least one of the plaintiffs’ allegations was reported to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, court records show. That prompted an Arapahoe County judge overseeing Grynberg’s family squabble to issue an order barring him from being alone with any of his female employees in order to protect him from additional charges.
“It’s amazing how many women have come forward lately to complain about the same thing, not just about those who are famous, such as Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore, but also the lesser-known Jack Grynbergs,” said attorney Elwyn Schaefer, who represents the three women. “It says something about how this type of conduct has been allowed to proliferate.”
Grynberg referred questions to his attorneys, who declined to comment.
Grynberg was arrested in December on a sexual assault charge stemming from one of the incidents alleged in the lawsuit, but Denver prosecutors later dropped the matter, saying they didn’t think they could prove it to a jury.
Grynberg has been embroiled in a bitter family court battle over control of three of his companies that his children and his wife say aren’t his to run anymore.
Grynberg’s ex-secretary, Candice Dee Smith, is among the three women asserting he sexually harassed them. Smith said she was pressured to have sex with Grynberg about the time he purchased a $600,000 home in Parker, furnished it and allowed her, her then-husband and their five children to live there rent-free. The sexual encounters began in April 2015, she said, when Grynberg “ushered (her) into his office bathroom for sex, telling her it was ‘time for you to start repaying me’ for the house,” the lawsuit says.
The sexual contact occurred on 35 occasions over several months that year, the lawsuit alleges, until Smith “began inventing excuses” to prevent additional contact, she says in the suit. Grynberg allegedly continued to proposition Smith for sex, touched her inappropriately and forced her to touch him on 18 separate occasions between December 2015 and July 2016 until she left the company.
Smith, who was married at the time but has since divorced, said Grynberg gave the home to her as a Passover gesture. Grynberg later sued Smith after she left the company – she says she was fired; he says she resigned – and wanted $45,000 in unpaid rent and her eviction. He also accused Smith of wrongly using company credit cards to buy $35,000 worth of vacations and other personal luxuries without Grynberg’s permission. Douglas County District Judge Paul King has ruled that the lease agreement was invalid, that the house was not a gift and that Grynberg was still its owner. Smith moved out in April, her attorneys said.
The allegations about the misused credit cards remain unresolved, as are the new allegations of sexual harassment and assault. In the earlier ruling about the unpaid rent, the judge indicated Grynberg had unfairly used his authority over Smith.
“The court … found that the issue of sexual favors being exchanged for the opportunity to live in the residence was not before the court at that time,” King wrote in an opinion issued Oct. 30 allowing Smith’s lawsuit to continue. “However, the court did find that (Grynberg), who had $50 million dollars in an account at Merrill Lynch, took advantage of (Smith), a woman with five children, by providing her a place to live, not exacting rent payments from her and then showing her the door by terminating her employment and initiating (her eviction).”
King has allowed two other former Grynberg employees – Maxine Yzaguirre and her sister Roxanne Alvarez – to join Smith as plaintiffs in their sexual harassment claims, each alleging Grynberg repeatedly and separately groped and harassed them.
Yzaguirre said she was a receptionist at Grynberg Petroleum for five months in 2016 and was given tasks that required her to bend over while Grynberg stared at her, and at least three times she went into his office to find him in his underwear. She alleged that Grynberg thrust his pelvis at her, asking if she was interested, and described how she once pulled away from an attempted kiss, to which she says Grynberg reminded her that “I just gave you a bonus.”
Alvarez said she was “extremely uncomfortable” around Grynberg during her brief time as a temporary assistant. She said he took her to his Greenwood Village home to clean his library and “pick fruit” so he could “stare at her backside … look down her shirt … and stare at her breasts” as she worked. On another occasion, she alleged Grynberg ushered her into the men’s locker room at the company’s Denver headquarters and forcefully kissed her and put his hands inside her bra. She said she pulled away and ran upstairs.
Shortly afterward, Grynberg allegedly told Alvarez to come back to his home, saying, “Either you go back to my house, or I no longer have work for you.”
Alvarez said she told Smith of the locker-room incident, and Smith warned Grynberg not to put his hands on Alvarez again, according to the suit. Alvarez said she also told Terence Burns, Grynberg Petroleum’s vice president, and he allegedly replied that Grynberg had “done things like this before.”
Burns allegedly told Alvarez to remain quiet “because we’ll all lose our jobs.”
Alvarez said she was fired shortly after that. Burns has been named a defendant in the lawsuit, along with Grynberg Petroleum attorney Roger Jatco, for allegedly being aware of Grynberg’s conduct and doing nothing to protect the employees.
Alvarez reported the locker-room incident to Denver police, resulting in the sexual assault charge that was dropped.
The fourth woman — Suzanne Greene of Albuquerque — said in a signed affidavit that just a few weeks into her employment as Grynberg’s executive secretary in 1976 he asked whether she would be willing to “show a good time” to an associate coming into town.
“I responded by saying, ‘I will not pimp for you,’ at which point Mr. Grynberg asked if I had any friends that would be willing to show the associate a good time,” Greene said in her affidavit.
She described a different incident in which Grynberg came by her home to pick up office mail, then allegedly pinned her to a wall “and began kissing me.” When she pulled away and complained, Grynberg allegedly said, “But you invited me over.”
Greene, who resigned in 1977, said she did not report the incident to authorities “because I feared retaliation … and I did not think that I would be believed.” She said she was prompted to inform prosecutors of the incident after she read about Grynberg’s arrest in 2016.
A Holocaust survivor, Grynberg is to be honored Tuesday by the Jewish National Fund in downtown Denver for a $1.3 million contribution he made to build an airplane exhibit in Israel about clandestine Jewish immigration to that country. The event is highlighted by a proclamation from Gov. John Hickenlooper acknowledging Grynberg’s gift.