Alaska lawmaker refuses sexual harassment training
Rep. Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole) says she won’t to go to mandatory sexual harassment training until a separate group looks into what happened when a legislative staffer accused then-Rep. Dean Westlake of sexual harassment.
“I guess my question would be, do you have to have training to know not to put an allegation in a drawer for months and months and do nothing," Wilson said. "Training doesn’t do that but it also has to be the correct training.”
The Republican is talking about a staff member who went to House leadership last year with claims against former Rep. Dean Westlake, who resigned last month. A report released by the House Rules Committee found that House leadership, specifically Rep. Chris Tuck and Rep. Bryce Edgmon, followed the correct procedures after learning about the allegations. However, Rep. Wilson is skeptical about legislative staff investigating themselves. She wants a different group to look at what happened, and says she’s not going to the training until it happens.
“Absolutely not, there’s nothing more important than protecting not just staff but anyone. It’s kind of a Juneau culture and it’s time to get that changed,” she said.
However, Rep. Tuck says he and Rep. Edgmon didn’t just put her allegations into a drawer. Tuck said House Leadership did everything they could to meet that staffer’s wishes. On the House floor on the opening day of session, Tuck said the staffer never asked leadership for an investigation into her allegations of sexual assault against Rep. Dean Westlake and that all the parties involved were happy with the outcome of their discussion at the time.
“The claimant came to me and wanted to get some advice and then that’s how it initially got started and of course any claims go directly to presiding officer according to our policy and dealt with there,” said Rep. Tuck.
Tuck says he acted swiftly and rapidly; took action against the claims of harassment right away.
Back in December, three other lawmakers, Rep. Charisse Millett, Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard and Rep. Mike Chenault, wrote a letter to Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who is chair of the Rules Committee, also asking her for a third-party investigation. The letter said if they want to change the culture in the capital, they need to shed light on past failures.
Rep. LeDoux says her committee released the report by Human Resources to show that investigation was handled correctly.
“It’s very important for the public to know that we take the issue of sexual harassment any harassment of workplace harassment very, very seriously and that when something was reported we did something about it,” LeDoux said.
As for a third-party investigation, Rep. LeDoux says there's nothing to investigate since the non-partisan Human Resources investigator found that the House Majority followed the correct procedures.
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