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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: 154878

Reported Deaths: 2206
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31824528
Washington21099212
Marion18373285
Clackamas13328175
Lane10200126
Jackson8315111
Umatilla763982
Deschutes593459
Yamhill376764
Linn357756
Malheur334458
Polk303942
Klamath278455
Douglas244754
Josephine232849
Benton232516
Jefferson195128
Coos144019
Union128119
Columbia124821
Wasco122026
Lincoln112820
Hood River106429
Morrow104614
Clatsop7756
Crook77518
Baker6507
Curry4246
Tillamook4142
Lake3746
Harney2736
Grant2221
Wallowa1424
Gilliam531
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3559311

Reported Deaths: 51794
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles118923221241
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2860772783
Orange2607213982
San Diego2589823260
Santa Clara1102371777
Kern102627811
Fresno950151422
Sacramento929611464
Alameda802791241
Ventura77395834
San Joaquin665691082
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus55887946
Tulare47784746
Monterey42138327
San Mateo38872515
San Francisco34138398
Santa Barbara31763407
Solano30024164
Merced28915395
Sonoma28004298
Imperial26855589
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15414209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12787185
Shasta10969174
Butte10922160
El Dorado9095100
Napa899869
Sutter884597
San Benito575259
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Tuolumne394659
Nevada394074
Mendocino379643
Amador344841
Humboldt318033
Lake314140
Glenn221923
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128736
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
Unassigned00
Medford
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