Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kiana, will stay in office despite calls from House leadership, legislative colleagues and the chairman of his party have called for his resignation after allegations that he made repeated unwanted advances toward multiple female aides during the legislative session.
“Many people in the past few days have called for me to resign,” he said in a prepared statement published late Tuesday. “I have thought seriously about it, and I have asked for counsel from friends, family, native leaders, Elders, and God. I have decided not to.”
The statement apologizes to the women and thanks them for coming forward.
Westlake had planned to hold a news conference to directly address the allegations, but cancelled it as he’s currently recovering from surgery.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Alaska Democratic Party chair Casey Steinau both called last week for Westlake to resign after the Anchorage Daily News published a report where seven women came forward to say Westlake made inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances during the legislative session.
The mass of revelations was kicked off after former legislative aide Olivia Garrett went public a week earlier to disclose two unwanted interactions she had with Westlake, which included unwanted physical contact. Garrett said she was motivated to bring her experiences public because she found that her experiences were far from unique.
It’s unclear what’s next for Westlake and the Legislature.
Edgmon declined to speculate on the future if Westlake remained when asked by the Associated Press on Monday, but after calling for his resignation it’s unlikely that Edgmon and the House majority will be able to let Westlake remain without consequence.
The House could strip Westlake of his committee memberships (he’s the vice chair of House Resources Committee and chair of the Arctic Policy, Economic Development and Tourism Committee) or kick him out of the caucus. The House could also formally censure Westlake, a formal rebuke of his actions. Similar responses have been taken in recent years, but not for allegations of sexual misconduct.
Members of the House have also called for an ethics investigation into Westlake’s behavior (another investigation cleared Sen. David Wilson of misconduct during a public altercation with a female legislative aide because it didn’t reach the legal threshold of sexual harassment).