After Years of Allegations, Legislature Creates Independent Conduct Office

Over a year after long-standing tensions regarding harassment and unwanted touching came to a head in the Oregon Legislature, the House has passed a measure which would create a new committee and an independent equity office to handle conduct complaints, and extends the statute of limitations on these complaints as well.

“We spent many years dismissing and ignoring bad behavior because it was simply easier,” said Rep. Denyc Boles (R-Salem).

The House passed two measures, which now head to the Senate. Together, the measures create the Joint Committee on Conduct and the Legislative Equity Office, as well as mandates that sexual misconduct and discrimination reports go to an independent investigator. They also extend the statute of limitations for conduct complaints from one year to five.

High-profile incidents in the Capitol over the last few years brought this issue to the forefront, like the allegations against former Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) brought by multiple staffers (some of whom have also filed suit) as well as fellow Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) in 2017. An independent investigation following Kruse’s voluntary retirement found a years-long pattern of similar instances of inappropriate and unwanted touching.

Earlier this year, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor & Industry, which oversees all state employers, conducted its own investigation on the legislature as a whole. It concluded that the Capitol was a “hostile workplace,” and not enough was being done to curb harassment behavior.

By Ian MacRonald