Sexual Harassment Investigation of Westlake Completed; Results Made Public
January 17, 2018
“I felt it was important to release the results of the harassment investigation to demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability,” said House Rules Committee Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage).
LeDoux said,“Dean Westlake acted inappropriately towards multiple staffers, and he rightly resigned. This entire incident is just further proof that the Alaska Legislature’s harassment policy is long overdue for an update and that everybody in the legislature, whether they be an elected lawmaker or a staffer, is accountable to the people of Alaska and the people want assurances that the Alaska Legislature takes the issue of harassment seriously.”
The report outlining the results of the investigation into the actions of Dean Westlake excludes the names of those who brought forward allegations of inappropriate behavior to protect the rights of victims.
“The ongoing national conversation about sexual harassment is long overdue. The incidents detailed in the report we released today were unfortunate and should not have happened, but they did,” said Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), a member of the House Rules Committee. “We all need to learn from what happened and go forward with the goal of making harassment a thing of the past in the Alaska Legislature.”
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), Chair of the House Rules Committee, has pre-filed legislation to address future instances of sexual and other forms of harassment and discrimination in the Alaska Legislature. House Bill 276 requires violations of the legislature’s harassment and discrimination policies be referred to the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.
House Bill 276 was formally introduced and received committee assignments when the Second Session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature started on Tuesday, January 16th in Juneau.
The Ethics Committee, which consists of two senators, two representatives, and five members of the public is to ensure compliance with and to investigate violations of the Alaska Legislative Ethics Act. The Ethics Committee can recommend punishment for lawmakers that violate the Ethics Act.
“For too long, sexual harassment and discrimination have been tolerated and overlooked in the halls of the Capitol. The current outdated policy, which we are working to update, allows members of leadership in the House and Senate to address alleged violations of the policy. HB 276 takes this decision out of the hands of legislators and instead places it with the Ethics Committee, which is a less-political body with representation from the public,” said Rep. LeDoux. “I am confident that enabling the Ethics Committee to review violations and deal with the guilty sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated in the Alaska Legislature.”
HB 276 is part of a broader effort by the leadership of the Alaska House Majority Coalition to ensure a safe and respectful workplace in the Alaska Legislature. All members of the House and their staff are required to take sexual and other harassment training, and the current flawed policy is being updated by a special subcommittee of the joint Alaska Legislative Council.
“My pledge to the people of Alaska is that we will examine every available option to prevent harassment. This effort may prompt some difficult and uncomfortable discussions about acceptable behavior, but those discussions must happen,” said Rep. LeDoux. “Anyone unwilling to change their behavior or who thinks it’s okay to harass another person does not belong in the Alaska Legislature. I look forward to a lively debate about HB 276 but I believe it’s a debate well worth having.”
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Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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