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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: 224547

Reported Deaths: 2877
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah42425618
Washington28176259
Marion24842333
Clackamas20349243
Lane15401176
Jackson13240160
Deschutes1074187
Umatilla988394
Linn644882
Yamhill515882
Klamath498279
Douglas479594
Polk440457
Josephine438076
Malheur370967
Benton354822
Jefferson252842
Coos241040
Columbia213732
Union175924
Wasco160631
Lincoln159122
Crook144724
Hood River128934
Morrow125017
Clatsop123711
Baker116018
Curry86512
Tillamook7985
Grant5657
Lake4868
Harney46611
Wallowa2486
Gilliam881
Sherman872
Wheeler491
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4003787

Reported Deaths: 64620
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles131165624721
Riverside3112424667
San Bernardino3095025265
San Diego3011003805
Orange2856205146
Santa Clara1245862183
Sacramento1178311790
Kern1143421428
Fresno1057321746
Alameda980131290
Ventura845891046
Contra Costa78084836
San Joaquin776151461
Stanislaus666191097
Tulare50731854
San Mateo45255588
Monterey44651528
San Francisco41758565
Solano36525261
Santa Barbara36106469
Sonoma33414331
Merced33321485
Imperial29333746
Placer25624307
Kings23790251
San Luis Obispo22356267
Madera17220249
Santa Cruz16779207
Yolo15149215
Marin15039243
Butte13523205
Shasta13179242
El Dorado11312121
Napa1055282
Sutter10343127
Yuba712950
San Benito632664
Tehama592766
Lassen590526
Nevada568575
Humboldt535154
Mendocino485652
Tuolumne469173
Lake440866
Amador395348
Siskiyou259640
Glenn248127
Colusa238118
Calaveras235658
Del Norte174710
Inyo148238
Mono13395
Plumas7926
Modoc5767
Mariposa5377
Trinity4696
Sierra1370
Alpine910
Unassigned810
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