Alaska state Sen. David Wilson’s actions during a confrontation with a female House aide didn’t amount to sexual harassment, according to a nonpartisan investigation.
Legislature’s human resources manager Skiff Lobaugh viewed surveillance video of the incident that occurred on June 15 outside of the House speaker’s chambers.
Two news reporters had said that Wilson held his cellphone between the aide’s legs. Lobaugh wrote in a report released Tuesday that the video showed Wilson held his cellphone about one to two feet away from the hemline of the aide’s skirt for four seconds.
Lobaugh found, based on eyewitness reports as well as a conversation with Wilson, that Wilson’s conduct was motivated by an attempt to record a conversation through a closed door. Not by an unlawful discriminatory motive.
Lobaugh wrote: “While Senator Wilson may have been acting with joking and friendly intentions his actions and comments still put the HSE (House staff employee) in a stressful no-win predicament.”
Wilson, who also viewed the video, repeated his call for the video to be publicly released. Legislative rules prohibit any public release of Capitol surveillance video.
“I feel the video footage speaks more volumes to what occurred without interpretation,” Wilson said. “And let folks make their own determination from watching the event that transpired that day.”
Anchorage Democratic Sen. Berta Gardner called for Wilson to apologize.
“While under …the definitions of harassment and assault, Sen. Wilson is not guilty of that under those definitions, I think under the common vernacular ‘harassment,’ I think that the staffer definitely felt harassed – with good reason,” Gardner said.
The confrontation occurred when Wilson was outside the door of a meeting of House majority members. The aide stood between him and the door.
Lobaugh wrote, “What clearly made this specific situation uncomfortable was that (the 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 to the contrary of her assigned duty.”
Gardner said Wilson should have recognized this.
“The big problem is the difference in stature between the two of them,” Gardner said. “She was in a very personal way prevented from doing her job by a senator and didn’t have the authority to make him stop and he took advantage of that.”
Wilson declined to say whether it’s appropriate for him to apologize for the incident or another incident in which he slapped Anchorage Daily News reporter Nathaniel Herz.
Senate majority leaders said in a written statement that they would “responsibly and transparently investigate all issues that potentially compromise a safe and respectful workplace.”
State prosecutors also addressed that reporter slapping incident Tuesday. The Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions won’t pursue charges against Wilson for the May incident.