The review comes as the Legislature has been examining its workplace culture and how it handles complaints in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Leaders in the state Legislature have launched another workplace inquiry, this time to examine a complaint about longtime Democratic Rep. Jeff Morris.
Morris, from Mount Vernon, said in an interview Thursday that he was informed of the complaint last month. He said he was told that it was filed by a supervisor for nonpartisan legislative staff about concerns that he had acted in a condescending and disrespectful manner.
Morris said he didn’t know the details of the complaint, theorizing that maybe he had rolled his eyes in a meeting. He speculated the complaint could be from a workplace conflict with one individual or it could be something political.
“As far as I know, this is more political than it is reality,” Morris said. He elaborated by saying that environmentalists were not happy with him and his work chairing the Technology and Economic Development Committee, which had dealt with some energy issues. He said the complaint was filed shortly before the meeting of a separate caucus committee that decided to change his committee and leave the veteran lawmaker without a chair role for the coming legislative session.
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The inquiry comes as the Legislature has been moving over the past year to re-examine the workplace culture at the Capitol in the wake of the #MeToo movement, including changing how complaints get handled.
Morris said he himself had filed complaints about the workplace structure in 2016 and 2017 because he said chairs were tasked with managing nonpartisan staff, but there was no way to measure his performance as a manager.
House Speaker Frank Chopp told The Seattle Times Editorial Board on Thursday that leaders in the House authorized the inquiry a couple weeks ago and that he expects the investigation to last about six weeks.
“There’s going to be some investigation done. We’re just waiting to see the results of that,” Chopp said. Morris said he had been told that the case was being treated as a “fact-finding” review, not an investigation.
Morris has been in the state House for more than 20 years, rising into various leadership positions such as speaker pro tempore.
Leaders in the Senate have also launched an independent investigation into allegations against Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker. In his case, made public this week, a former staff member said he made unwanted advances and treated her with hostility — during her time working for him and also after she moved to another job in state government.
Also this week, Republican Rep. Matt Manweller submitted his letter of resignation, saying he plans to leave the office next month. He had faced pressure from GOP leaders to step down after a series of allegations of sexual misconduct.