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Investigation: Lawmakers Lax on Stopping Sexual Harassment

A state investigation released Thursday finds Oregon lawmakers didn't do enough to stop sexual harassment in the Capitol.

Posted: Jan 3, 2019 3:09 PM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A state investigation released Thursday finds Oregon lawmakers didn't do enough to stop sexual harassment in the Capitol.

As a result, the five-month investigation by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, known as BOLI, concludes the state Capitol is a hostile workplace, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported .

In an interview with BOLI investigators, Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis described feeling marginalized by how some of the state's most powerful Democrats and key legislative leaders reacted after she accused then Sen. Jeff Kruse of touching her breast and placing his hand on her thigh under a dais.

Gelser told BOLI that Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, suggested she was "grandstanding" by speaking out against Kruse. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, reportedly told Gelser it was hard to move forward with her complaint because people in the Capitol consider Gelser unlikable and that Gelser had made the sexual harassment complaint all about her. Gelser told state investigators that Senate President Peter Courtney yelled at her in a café when the two were discussing harassment.

Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters, R-Salem, allegedly told Gelser she needed to "learn how to deal" with working with Kruse.

House Speaker Tina Kotek disagreed with the report's characterization of her conversation with Gelser. Kotek said she has always been personally supportive of Gelser, who she said showed "tremendous courage" in coming forward to report Kruse's behavior.

"The fact that she came forward is going to make the capitol a better place to work and we're going to make improvements," Kotek said.

The report echoes Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian's initial complaint that top lawmakers haven't done enough to curb harassment they knew or should have known was occurring. As the complainant in the case, Avakian didn't participate in the investigation.

Typically, findings like those in the new report would open the Legislature up to penalties under BOLI's regulatory process, which has seen record-setting settlements during Avakian's decade-long tenure atop the bureau. But Avakian, a Democrat like those he has accused of letting harassment fester, is about to leave office. On Monday, Labor Commissioner-elect Val Hoyle will take control of the department and will likely dictate whether the bureau seeks consequences for the Legislature. She has not said how she plans to handle the matter.

At the heart of the BOLI investigation is misconduct by former Republican state Sen. Jeff Kruse, who has been found to have subjected interns, lobbyists, fellow lawmakers and legislative staff to inappropriate comments and unwelcome touching over a course of years.

Courtney and Kotek earlier denied Avakian's accusations and said his investigation would have a chilling effect on others to come forward when they face harassment.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 78160

Reported Deaths: 953
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah18149245
Washington10929103
Marion9634147
Clackamas672781
Lane450747
Umatilla446850
Jackson401737
Deschutes251715
Malheur245945
Yamhill179717
Linn160023
Polk133219
Douglas98119
Klamath9265
Jefferson87411
Benton8457
Union8098
Morrow6717
Lincoln66515
Josephine5785
Wasco54319
Columbia5394
Coos4533
Hood River4303
Clatsop3730
Baker2914
Crook2446
Tillamook1470
Curry1462
Lake1431
Grant1381
Harney1041
Wallowa723
Gilliam230
Sherman230
Wheeler60
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1265182

Reported Deaths: 19410
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles4141857740
San Bernardino966571136
Riverside885301444
San Diego846381035
Orange805511578
Kern42614449
Fresno39004488
Sacramento38999586
Santa Clara35945486
Alameda30330520
San Joaquin26432510
Contra Costa24914261
Stanislaus22624430
Tulare21645312
Ventura20604185
Imperial16429356
Monterey15835123
San Francisco15797160
San Mateo14812170
Sonoma12662160
Merced12281182
Santa Barbara11631137
Kings1143489
Solano1095781
Marin7840129
Placer679471
Madera642786
San Luis Obispo634538
Shasta518750
Yolo502081
Santa Cruz463829
Butte419560
Sutter363719
Napa312418
El Dorado25814
Yuba222110
Lassen21823
San Benito196817
Tehama177326
Mendocino163223
Nevada141410
Tuolumne11049
Glenn98910
Lake97120
Humboldt9499
Colusa7476
Siskiyou7373
Amador66616
Mono5503
Calaveras54422
Del Norte3571
Inyo30816
Plumas2300
Trinity1680
Modoc1560
Mariposa1443
Alpine510
Sierra230
Unassigned00
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