BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A teenage page who worked in the Idaho Statehouse during the 2017 legislative session said two lawmakers and a lobbyist made sexually harassing comments and jokes to her that on at least one occasion left her feeling “creeped out,” a newspaper reported.
The encounters are described in documents obtained by the Idaho Statesman from the Idaho attorney general’s office and an interview the newspaper did with the page whose name was withheld by the newspaper.
She told the newspaper in a story on Wednesday that none of the behavior was physical, outside of a representative’s lingering touch on her arm.
Named in the documents are Republican Rep. James Holtzclaw of Meridian and former Republican Rep. Brandon Hixon of Caldwell. Hixon was facing a sexual abuse investigation in a different matter and committed suicide earlier this month.
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Lobbyist Colby Cameron is also named by the page in the documents.
Holtzclaw and Cameron each told the newspaper they did not mean to say anything inappropriate and apologized if that’s how their remarks were received.
After legislative leaders learned of the complaints last year, the page was moved to a different set of committees, and Holtzclaw and Cameron were reprimanded and returned to work. It’s not clear if any action was taken concerning the lobbyist.
In a typed complaint, the page, 18 at the time, said Hixon made strange comments to her such as, “‘Why do you sit right behind me? I know you’re there.'”
The page told the newspaper that she didn’t think much about the inappropriate comments at first, “but it gradually kept happening as the session went on. I think he was aware of what he was doing.”
In the documents, the page said Holtzclaw made “mildly flirty” comments such as, “‘Hello, have we met?'”
Holtzclaw told the newspaper he was not attempting to harass or offend anyone.
“It was a huge misunderstanding and at no one time was it my intent to make anyone think I was anything but a gentleman,” Holtzclaw said. “I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I’m sorry for my conversation to be misconstrued.”
The page in the complaint said Cameron approached her after a committee meeting and said, “‘We were watching you on the floor, and we said, ‘Look at that tall skinny girl with the dark brown hair.'”
“I remember being really creeped out because I’m such an insignificant person,” the page told the newspaper. “I found it weird that they wouldn’t be listening to the representatives and would be watching me.”
Cameron, in a written statement to the newspaper, said he did introduce himself to a House page and later was asked by the speaker’s office if he’d had any conversations with any House pages. He said he confirmed he had a conversation with a page and hadn’t heard anything else until being contacted by the newspaper.
“I recognize that my attempt to be friendly and welcoming was not taken that way, and for that I apologize,” he said in the statement.
The newspaper said in most cases it doesn’t name victims of sexual harassment. It reported that it confirmed the page’s identity through committee records and interviews with lawmakers and the House sergeant-at-arms.
The page told the newspaper it was her first experience with harassment.
“It was my first professional job, and I heard about it, but I thought they wouldn’t bother me,” she said. “It did shock me.”
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com