SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Republican state lawmaker says she was subjected to sexual harassment and pressured to take part in a “quid-pro-quo” arrangement by longtime Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie.
State Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson, of Prineville, outlined her allegations Monday in a letter to House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Breese Iverson has asked that Kotek remove Witt from the three legislative committees she and he both serve on.
“The fact Representative Witt chose to sexually harass me leaves us no room for any future ability to have real discussions regarding committee business or other House Floor business,” Breese Iverson wrote. “The quid-pro-quo he texted me is an inexcusable abuse of his power. Experiencing this sexual harassment is something I should not have to be exposed to or accept as a course of business, especially in today’s Capitol culture.”
Kotek’s office said Tuesday she was setting up a meeting with the legislative equity officer, who fields harassment complaints, about options for responding.
While the contents of the text or texts remain unclear, the letter adds new details to allegations that emerged against Witt last week.
In a hearing of the House Conduct Committee on Friday, legislators learned that a lawmaker had filed a formal complaint against Witt under the Legislature’s “safe, respectful and inclusive workplace” rule.
Few details were given but an independent investigator looking into the complaint recommended that Witt be barred from contacting or coming near Breese Iverson and that he be removed from chairing the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, of which Breese Iverson is a member.
The investigator, private attorney Sarah Ryan, said she had no reason to believe Breese Iverson’s physical safety was in jeopardy.
The committee, made up of an even number of Republicans and Democrats, concluded that recommending Witt’s removal as committee chair wasn’t warranted. That was a position pushed strongly by state Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, who noted that Witt had already offered to temporarily step down while an investigation played out and that forcing him out could be seen as a punishment rather than the “interim safety measure” lawmakers were tasked with considering.
“If he wants to voluntarily step down temporarily, I would support that,” Fahey said.
The committee issued a no-contact order between Witt and Breese Iverson. Republicans have said that more action is needed.
In her letter to Kotek Breese Iverson said: “I felt betrayed when arguments were made to oppose the recommendation to remove Representative Witt as Chair. In thinking of the interactions that would be required of us, I knew the restrictions would not be enough to ensure my safety from his inappropriate advances.”
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby offered a similar sentiment.
Following Witt volunteering to step down temporarily as committee chair, Kotek formally made that change Monday. In a note to lawmakers, she said Witt also would not attend virtual committee hearings.
For his part, Witt has said he believes “101% that it will be found that there was no ill intent on my part whatsoever, but rather an attempt to further the committee interests.” He did not immediately respond to OPB’s request for comment Tuesday morning.
Ryan, the independent investigator, said she expects the investigation to conclude by the end of April. The matter would then go before the House Conduct Committee to consider whether Witt violated legislative rules, and whether there should be consequences.