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: 357526

Reported Deaths: 4284
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55810707
Washington38782324
Marion36837455
Clackamas29779309
Lane27744302
Jackson23059310
Deschutes20336125
Umatilla14492150
Linn12911131
Douglas12118243
Josephine9384196
Yamhill8715113
Klamath8020119
Polk737381
Malheur563677
Benton549431
Coos503794
Columbia382644
Jefferson376052
Lincoln319939
Union319549
Crook291846
Wasco288841
Clatsop244328
Baker203529
Tillamook196932
Hood River192837
Morrow185023
Curry180625
Harney113927
Grant100013
Lake93912
Wallowa68612
Gilliam1544
Sherman1523
Wheeler1121
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4852216

Reported Deaths: 71350
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148510526549
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3678574183
San Bernardino3586775692
Orange3242885562
Sacramento1596362309
Kern1463481648
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921400
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus862991335
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924352
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766787
Lassen754347
San Benito744972
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa133916
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 48°
Brookings
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 51°
Crater Lake
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 48°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 48°
Klamath Falls
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 32°
Wet and breezy Tuesday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events