Sen. David Wilson held his phone one to two feet from the hemline of a female legislative aide’s skirt and angled the phone toward the aide’s skirt and the door behind her for four seconds, according to an investigation by the Legislative Affairs Agency’s HR manager.
The report, which was described by Wilson last week but not released at the time, was released today with the name of the legislative aide redacted. It found the act did not meet the standards of hostile workplace sexual harassment and did not violate the Legislative Council’s policy on sexual harassment, but his actions created an “uncomfortable situation” that put the legislative aide in a “stressful no-win predicament.”
The report by Skiff Lobaugh sheds light on the June 15, 2017 altercation between Wilson and the female aide that’s given rise to accusations of sexual harassment and claims of political gamesmanship, culminating in a bizarre news conference Wilson called in an effort to clear his name last week.
Lobaugh conducted the investigation in November, after reports of the incident surfaced on The Alaska Landmine. He interviewed both Wilson and the aide, reviewed eyewitness reports by reporters Liz Raines and James Brooks, and reviewed security footage of the incident.
He ultimately found the incident didn’t meet the threshold for sexual harassment or an ethics violation because he found it was a one-time incident, didn’t appear to be sexual in nature, it doesn’t interfere with the aide’s ability to do her job and “is unlikely to have a significant negative effect on her well-being in the future.”
‘A disturbing pattern’
The report comes on the same day the Office of Special Prosecutions announced it would not be bringing charges against Wilson for slapping a reporter during an incident that took place just a few weeks before the incident with the legislative aide occurred. While both reports said the conduct fell short of the legal threshold for a crime or ethics violation, both raised issues about Wilson’s conduct in the halls of the Alaska Capitol.
“What clearly made this specific situation uncomfortable was that (the House aide) was placed in a position between doing what she was directed to do by the legislator who employed her, and simultaneously coping with actions and statements from another legislator that were contrary to her assigned duty,” Lobaugh wrote. “While Senator Wilson may have been acting with joking and friendly intentions his actions and comments still put the (the House aide) in a stressful no-win predicament.”
The Office of Special Prosecutions had a similar line in its report.
“This in no way implies that Senator Wilson’s conduct is not of concern, but rather that the resources necessary for this prosecution is disproportionate to the conduct, especially since the Legislature has the authority to address this conduct through other means,” he wrote.
Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner released a scathing statement shortly after the release of the legislative report.
“This behavior is consistent with what the staffer reported at the time. Such behavior is clearly intrusive, intimidating, and inappropriate to the staffer. It is also grossly unprofessional and unethical behavior from anyone, let alone a sitting member of the Senate,” she said.
“Coupled with the fact that Senator Wilson slapped a political reporter across the face in the Capitol building a short time before this incident, it demonstrates a disturbing pattern of poor judgement, bullying, and aggressive behavior. Senator Wilson should acknowledge his bad behavior, and apologize immediately to both the reporter and the staffer, taking full responsibility for his actions.”
Though Wilson won’t face legal repercussions for his actions, there’s a chance that his decision to hold a news conference could land him in trouble with the Legislature.
Wilson accused KTVA reporter Liz Raines of fabricating the report (and for some reason didn’t mention any of the men who reported nearly identical accounts) and called for the House leadership to resign from their positions, is raising questions about retaliation.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, who’s become the target of flimsy claims of racially motivated comments against Wilson, said Wilson’s press conference went too far and could reach into the realm of retaliation against someone for reporting workplace harassment.
“Senator Wilson crossed the line of appropriate behavior by using a press conference to chastise individuals who came forward as witnesses to an alleged incident of harassment. I believe this is a violation of the legislature’s harassment policy and warrants a serious investigation by the Senate,” he said in a statement last week.
The Senate broke its silence on the matter today, issuing an unattributed statement that said leadership would at least look into the claims of retaliation.
“The Alaska State Senate will responsibly and transparently investigate all issues that potentially compromise a safe and respectful workplace. The Senate takes very seriously the protection of all legislative employees,” it said. “Further, Senate Leadership has heard House Speaker Bryce Edgmon’s concerns of potential retaliatory actions in this matter. We also take allegations of retaliation very seriously, and are in the process of investigating to determine if additional action is necessary.”
Advice: Don’t hold your breath.