Rural Rep. Dean Westlake accused of sexual misconduct
A former legislative staff member says, state Rep. Dean Westlake, (D-Kiana), groped her and made an unwelcome sexual advance toward her earlier this year.
She's asked that KTVA not release her full name, but refer to her only by her first name, Olivia. She sent KTVA a copy of her letter to House leadership months ago, outlining what happened.
The letter, dated March 13, 2017, refers to two separate occasions in which the former legislative aide says Westlake made unwelcome physical contact with her.
The first, she says, happened at the Juneau-Douglas Museum in January. While walking through the hallway, Olivia says Westlake grabbed her and made a comment about her hair, saying that it "turned him on."
Two months later, she says Westlake came onto her again. This time, in a downtown art studio in a dark, crowded room.
"I didn't see him until he was right next to me," Olivia wrote. "He grabbed my butt as he walked by. I pushed his shoulder, but not with enough force for him to move or probably even notice since he kept moving. A nearby staffer saw the incident."
The letter is addressed to House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) and House Majority Leader Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).
Tuck said he couldn't speak about the matter on camera without consulting with the legislature's HR department first because personnel matters are normally kept confidential.
In a text message Saturday, Tuck said he's spoken with Olivia about the two incidents.
"I informed her that there are two types of sexual harassment and that under unwelcomed conduct, she has to express that it was," Tuck told KTVA. "She didn't do it at the time of the instance. As per my recommendation, she chose to write it in a letter so we may communicate that it was unwelcomed conduct to Westlake, which was done. She was completely satisfied with that. There are no further instances to my knowledge."
Olivia disputes Tuck's recollection of events.
Jay Parmley, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party, says he only learned of the accusations at a recent meeting, last month.
"This is more than troubling, and Rep. Westlake should absolutely be held accountable," Parmley said, adding that if the accusations are true, the party will take action.
"We will not hesitate, I'm sure our Executive Committee and our Chair will not hesitate to call for Rep. Westlake's resignation, but I don't know that it's there yet," Parmley said.
Parmley says he's been assured that these allegations are being taken seriously by Rep. Tuck and Rep. Edgmon and that the matter will be investigated at the state level.
KTVA reached out to Westlake, directly, for comment on the allegations. His office responded that he is recovering from surgery out of state.
Last month, Sen. David Wilson (R-Wasilla) was accused of harassing a female legislative staffer in the House. House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage) called for Senate action on the matter.
In a text message Saturday, LeDoux said she was unaware of the allegations against Westlake until they were reported in an article by The Midnight Sun.
LeDoux said she cannot comment on active cases.
"But the process is once an incident is reported Human Resources does an investigation. So even when a staffer doesn't file a complaint once Human Resources becomes aware of an incident, it proceeds to investigate," LeDoux wrote.
The Legislative Council has formed a working group to address harassment policies in Juneau. The group is tasked with making recommendations about current policy by the start of the next regularly scheduled legislative session, in January.
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