SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The conduct committee of the Oregon House of Representatives voted Friday in favor of expelling one of its members for alleged sexual harassment and asked the full House to make a decision.
The fate of Rep. Diego Hernandez, a Democrat from Portland and once considered a rising political star, hangs in the balance.
A resolution passed by the House Committee on Conduct says “Hernandez has engaged in disorderly behavior … and be it further resolved, that with the concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives, Representative Hernandez be expelled.”
It was not immediately clear when a vote might happen. The next House floor session is scheduled for Tuesday.
Hernandez allegedly harassed three women, including throwing his cell phone toward one. He is accused of repeatedly trying to rekindle consensual romances with the three women, despite their telling him they weren’t interested.
Hours before the House Committee on Conduct voted in favor of expulsion, Gov. Kate Brown said he should step down immediately.
Brown diverted from her news conference about COVID-19 on Friday to say Hernandez’s behavior has been “unacceptable.”
“He should resign immediately,” the Democrat said. House Speaker Tina Kotek has also called for Hernandez’s resignation.
He has expressed no intention of doing so.
The conduct committee found on Thursday that two of the women felt that rebuffing his advances would adversely affect their business before the Legislature. None of the women who brought complaints was identified publicly.
Asked for comment on Brown’s statement, Hernandez did not offer one when he responded by text. In a letter to the conduct committee, he apologized for making anyone uncomfortable and said he made mistakes in these relationships.
But Hernandez also said an investigation into his conduct ignored much of the evidence he presented and that he has been denied due process rights.
In a Friday letter to the committee, his attorney, Kevin Lafky, said Hernandez had presented evidence that rebuts testimony heard by lawmakers.
“As a jury, you should consider all of the evidence that we have submitted. You cannot selectively decide what you want to read and review,” the letter said.
Despite allegations circulating for months, Hernandez was re-elected by a wide margin last November to a House seat representing part of Portland .
His case is the second to arise in recent years related to sexual harassment.
In 2018, an Oregon state senator resigned after an investigation determined he had harassed women in the Oregon State Capitol with prolonged hugging, groping and other unwelcome physical contact. Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Republican, nevertheless proclaimed his innocence.
It was at that time the highest-profile case in Oregon of the #MeToo movement, in which sexual misconduct allegations were brought against men in power and that began with an expose of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017.
Hernandez tweeted at the time that Kruse should immediately resign, calling his presence “an affront to the victims & a disgrace to our institution.”
“Our Capitol should be a place that is safe and welcoming, it is not as long as Sen Kruse is in the building,” Hernandez wrote.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky