Report substantiates Westlake sexual harassment allegations
Former House Rep. Dean Westlake “created a hostile work environment”, according to an investigation released by the House Rules Committee on Monday, one day before lawmakers are scheduled to gavel in for the coming legislative session.
For two hours-- behind closed doors-- late Monday afternoon, the Rules Committee discussed a Legislative Affairs investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
Afterward, it released a five-page report produced by the agency’s Human Resources Manager, Skiff Lobaugh.
Lobaugh cited four allegations from three legislative employees as valid, saying the investigation was prompted by KTVA reporting.
The first incident cited took place Jan. 16, 2017. Westlake had not yet been sworn into office. Westlake grabbed the employee and made a comment “about her hair turning him on”, according to the report. It also noted Westlake said he “wouldn’t have been surprised if I hugged her”.
The report then cited an incident at a downtown Juneau art studio. There, Westlake grabbed the same person from the first allegation ”while walking by her”. The employee said she was grabbed in the butt. This happened March 11, 2017, just a few months into his term.
The report said Westlake noted again “he would not be surprised if he hugged her”.
Ten days later, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon counseled Westlake about his actions, “letting him know his actions were inappropriate and that they would not be tolerated”, the report said.
Lobaugh’s report then cited an incident during an April 18, 2017, House Community and Regional Affairs Committee hearing. It said, “Westlake passed a note to another legislator stating that his staff looked really good in her dress”.
He later approached the staffer and told her directly that she looked good in her dress. Westlake was trying to pay her a compliment, the report said.
The report cited a fourth incident at the Capitol’s fire escape where an employee handed Westlake and another lawmaker a per diem check.
“When she gave Representative Westlake his per diem check he said something along the lines of “how are we supposed to get any work done here with employees who look like that?”
Westlake said he would not use a phrase like that but “did admit he is a big flirt and may have said something.”
Westlake resigned last month during the investigation.
After the hearing, Rules Committee Chair Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage) said, “I felt that the public had the need to know that we took this issue very seriously.”
Lawmakers on Wednesday will participate in sexual harassment training.
Gov. Bill Walker on Monday interviewed three candidates to replace Westlake. The three people who made the cut are Leanna Mack of Utqiagvik, former advisor to North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower; Sandy Shroyer-Beaver, a Kotzebue City Councilmember; and Eugene Smith, also a Kotzebue City Councilmember.
Walker has until Jan. 24 to select a replacement for the former Kiana representative, but a spokesman says he wants Walker to recommend a name sooner than that.
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