SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The conduct committee of the Oregon House of Representatives unanimously decided Friday that an Oregon state representative who sent inappropriate texts to a fellow lawmaker must attend coaching and training.
The committee on Tuesday had decided that Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, violated workplace rules against sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment with a series of texts to Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson, R-Prineville, in April.
The committee also found Witt did not intend to create a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would exchange his vote on a bill for a date or sexual favors.
The four-member committee on Friday met virtually to decide what “remedy” to impose.
Rep. Ron Noble, R-McMinnville, and Rep. Raquel Moore-Greene, R-Salem, pushed a harder line. They approved motions to recommend the House speaker remove Witt from all committees for the remainder of his term, but with Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, and Rep. Tawna Sanchez, D-Portland, opposed, it failed to achieve a majority.
Sanchez said she believed the sanction was too severe given the level of the infraction.
Witt’s text messages were ambiguous, according to an independent investigation. Breese Iverson and others had testified that she was severely shaken by the exchange. Others viewed them as non-sexual. Witt has denied any wrongdoing.
On April 12, Iverson texted Witt to ask for his vote on one of her proposals over water rights on a specific piece of land. After a few texts on the bill, Witt diverted the discussion, texting: “We probably need to go for a beer sometime.”
When Breese Iverson didn’t acknowledge the message and instead kept selling her bill, Witt wrote: “I’m not wedded to a beer by any means. Could be dinner or……?”
“Or what?” Breese Iverson texted. Witt replied: “I’ve made two offerings. If you wanna meet, find something better than dinner or beer.”
“Trying to get a vote count,” Breese Iverson replied.