SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon state representative violated workplace rules against sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment with a series of texts to a fellow lawmaker in April, a House committee has found.
But Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that on Tuesday evening the House Conduct Committee found that, contrary to an allegation against him, Rep. Brad Witt did not intend to create a quid pro quo arrangement with Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson in which he would exchange his vote on a bill for a date or sexual favors.
Instead, the committee’s conclusions centered around the ambiguity of Witt’s text messages, the fact they could reasonably be perceived as sexual, and testimony from Breese Iverson and others that she was severely shaken by the exchange.
The conduct committee did not discuss what an appropriate “remedy” for Witt’s violation would be. It will take up that matter at another hearing.
“(Witt’s) text messages were clearly inappropriate and intended to make me feel I needed to accept spending time with the respondent to further any conversation about my bill,” Breese Iverson told the committee. “These events continue to upset me each time I go back through it.”
On April 12, Breese Iverson, R-Prineville; texted Witt, D-Clatskanie, 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.
Breese Iverson filed a complaint against Witt the next day alleging he’d tried to offer a suggestive quid-pro-quo: his vote in exchange for a meeting away from work settings.
An investigation by private attorney Sarah Rya justified in feeling offended by the text. Breese Iverson said Tuesday that her reaction went deeper than being offended.