An Oregon state lawmaker offered Wednesday to stay away from the state’s Capitol pending the conclusion of a formal hearing on findings that he inappropriately touched more than 10 women inside the building.
After hours of discussion, Oregon’s Republican Senate caucus agreed to accept the offer from state Sen. Jeff Kruse.
“The behavior alleged in the report, if true, is obviously not acceptable to the Senate Republican caucus,” the statement, obtained by the Oregonian, says.
A four-member Committee on Conduct, consisting of two Republican and two Democratic senators, will consider the investigative report Feb. 22. Republican Sens. Bill Hansell and Kim Thatcher will serve on the panel, which will recommend if Kruse should be reprimanded, censured, expelled or face no action.
Dian Rubanoff, an independent investigator and employment law attorney, issued a 51-page report after an investigation. She found that Kruse also groped or gave lingering hugs to two law students who used to work for him, Republican and non-partisan staffers and a former legislative aide. The charges include calling a law student “sexy” and “little girl” and commenting on her legs, as well as giving women unwanted massages and kisses.
In the report, many women said they felt they could not report Kruse for fear it would hurt their careers, the Oregonian reported. Some also felt that nothing would be done because his conduct went unchecked for so long.
Last November, state Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Ore., filed a formal complaint against Kruse and publicly identified him as her harasser. Rubanoff wrote that Kruse’s misconduct escalated in 2017 after strict warnings against breaching boundaries with women, the Oregonian reported.
Several politicians, including Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, have said Kruse should resign.
Kruse was stripped of his committee assignments by the Senate president late last year because of the complaints.
The Oregon state senator has said he won’t step down.
“I have no plan to do anything different than what I’m currently doing,” Kruse said. “We’re still in a formal process here. I have significant issues with the report.”
Rubanoff wrote that while Kruse engaged in a pattern of conduct that was offensive, “I do not believe that Senator Kruse is a bad person, or that he has intended to hurt or offend anyone.”