North Pole Rep. Tammie Wilson says fellow lawmaker Gabrielle LeDoux should resign because she failed to promptly respond to a legislative staffer’s complaint that she was sexually harassed by a lawmaker who was later forced to resign over those and other allegations.
The Anchorage Republican LeDoux chairs the House Rules Committee. She denies Wilson’s accusation.
LeDoux says it’s politically motivated and stems from a dispute over sexual-harassment training that all lawmakers and staffers are being required to take this year.
Wilson raised a ruckus a week ago when she issued a Friday afternoon statement accusing LeDoux of failing to follow up on a legislative staff member’s report filed in the spring alleging that the staffer had been sexually harassed by former Rep. Dean Westlake.
“The complaint was put in in March,” Wilson said. “And so it sat there for months and months, before anybody even knew it was there.”
Westlake, a Democrat from Kiana, resigned last month after more women came forward to accuse him of harassment. But Wilson said LeDoux should have acted sooner to investigate the case and punish Westlake, because taking care of legislative staff is one of the House Rules Committee chair’s main responsibilities.
Wilson is calling for an outside investigator to look into whether LeDoux and House leaders failed to uphold their responsibility to follow up on the complaints.
“Yes, Rep. Westlake has resigned. But what happens to those who did nothing? Something needs to be done – a third-party investigation needs to be done to find out who knew what when,” Wilson said.
Those others at fault, Wilson says, include House Majority Leader Chris Tuck and Speaker Bryce Edgmon.
Both are Democrats – Tuck is from Anchorage, Edgmon from Dillingham.
Wilson said they too should resign if the outside investigator determines they didn’t follow the Legislature’s sexual-harassment policies and procedures.
“We need to know why they hid for so long the accusation that they didn’t investigate immediately, that they didn’t make sure that others weren’t not going to be hurt,” Wilson said.
A spokesman for the House leadership declined to comment on Wilson’s accusations.
LeDoux said neither she nor the House leadership “hid” the staffer’s complaint, and she notes that Wilson admits she has no evidence for that accusation.
LeDoux said she initially wasn’t told about the complaint, which she said was handled by Edgmon, who confronted Westlake and urged him to resign.
“As far as I know, there’s been no other caucus in the history of the Legislature that has ever called for a member to resign,” LeDoux said. “And believe me, there’s been plenty of sexual harassment in the Legislature.”
LeDoux says she can’t say much more about it until a report on the issue is made public.
“Now that doesn’t mean that the procedure can’t be improved, and that is why we’ve initiated a legislative subcommittee to review our procedures, to review our sexual-harassment policy, so that maybe we can improve things,” she said.
LeDoux said Legislative leaders have instituted new rules requiring all lawmakers and their staffers to take sexual-harassment training, even if they’ve already attended previous sessions.
She suspects that’s one reason why Wilson is attacking her, because she says Wilson has refused to participate in the training, and in response LeDoux has threatened to cut off her authority to hire staff.
“For some reason, Ms. Wilson thinks that she should be exempt from this training, and doesn’t have to take it,” LeDoux said. “And that’s what annoys hers so much.”
Wilson said she won’t participate in the training because she’s already attended earlier sessions, and because she’s waiting for an outside investigator to be brought and for LeDoux and the House leaders to explain on why they didn’t move more quickly on the allegations against Westlake.
“It’s not that I won’t take the training,” Wilson said. “But I am not doing any other training done by this Democrat majority, until they are able to answer the questions on what happened.”
LeDoux said she also sees a partisan motivation behind Wilson’s attacks. She says conservatives dislike her and other Republican lawmakers who work with their Democratic counterparts in the House coalition.
“It’s simply a political hit job,” LeDoux said. “Because the Republican Party has a target on my back.”
Both Wilson and LeDoux said they’ll be headed to Juneau this weekend for the start of this year’s legislative session, which gets under way Tuesday.