House Speaker Bryce Edgmon released a general statement on sexual harassment in the Legislature today, breaking his silence less than a week after allegations against a House legislator surfaced.
Last week, allegations that majority Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, made unwanted advances toward a female legislative aide earlier this year became public. The allegations were the second to surface after Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, was accused of inappropriate actions toward another female legislative aide.
Edgmon didn’t comment on either instance in his statement, but said the most recent incident highlighted the need for a change.
“This is a confidential personnel issue and I am not able to comment on details of the incident or the complaint,” he said. “The incident illustrates the need for concrete and clear reporting policies and mandatory sexual harassment training for every legislator and staff member.”
The Legislature is currently reviewing its sexual harassment policies in light of the Wilson incident with a report due before the start of the session. Edgmon also said in the statement that the Alaska Legislature will make sexual harassment training mandatory for all legislators and their staff before the start of the legislative session in January. The training will be conducted by the Alaska Human Rights Commission.
Here’s the rest of Edgmon’s statement:
“Unwanted sexual advances and other forms of harassment are unacceptable and hinder the work of the Alaska Legislature to do the people’s business. Any victim who comes forward must be respected and should know their concerns will be heard, investigated, and addressed with fairness and transparency. Our priority is to ensure a safe and respectful work environment where no one feels threatened. We strongly encourage anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment, assault, or aggravation in or related to their place of work to come forward. We want them to feel confident that their personnel matters will remain confidential and private, and that the Legislature will listen and follow through.”