Report: AK lawmaker committed sexual harassment

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska A report , into allegations of sexual harassment against former Alaska state representative Dean Westlake, concludes that he created a hostile work environment.

Westlake resigned last month as the representative for District 40, while the investigation was underway.

In an email news release Monday evening, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage) said the report was being released to the public to demonstrate "transparency and accountability".

“Dean Westlake acted inappropriately towards multiple staffers, and he rightly resigned." LeDoux wrote, adding "This entire incident is just further proof that the Alaska Legislature’s harassment policy is long overdue for an update and that everybody in the legislature, whether they be an elected lawmaker or a staffer, is accountable to the people of Alaska and the people want assurances that the Alaska Legislature takes the issue of harassment seriously.”

In the report, dated December 20, 2017 and sent to speaker of the house Bryce Edgmon, human resources manager Skiff Lobaugh wrote that he investigated four specific allegations made by three different complainants.

The first allegation, according to the report, occurred on January 16th, 2017 at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, before Westlake was sworn into office. The report says the complainant claimed Westlake walked up, grabbed her, and made a comment "about her hair turning him on". The report says the comment regarding the staffers wasn't verified by witnesses, but the "grab" or "hug" was substantiated.

The second allegation stems from a reported incident at a downtown Juneau art studio on March 11, 2017. The report says the complainant claimed "that she was grabbed on her butt". Lobaugh wrote that the claim was substantiated, but that it was unclear whether Westlake had touched the woman on her lower back or on her backside.

The third allegation, according to the report, occurred on April 18, 2017 during a House Community and Regional Affairs Committee meeting. The report says Westlake passed a note to another legislator, stating that the complainant, a member of his staff, "looked really good in her dress". Westlake, the report says, approached the woman later and told her directly "how good she looked in her dress". Lobaugh wrote that the Westlake said he was trying to pay her a compliment. The report said the complaint was substantiated, but that the allegation alone would not fit the definition of hostile work environment.

The fourth allegation, the report says, happened during a June, 2017 special session when a house employee was delivering per diem checks to Westlake and another lawmaker while they were in a fire escape. The report says Westlake "said something along the lines of 'how are we supposed to get any work done around here with employees who look like that?' ". Lobaugh wrote that the staffer felt the exchange was inappropriate and made her feel uncomfortable. The report says the allegation was substantiated, though Westlake said he would not have used the phrase the complainant said he used. "He (Westlake) did admit he is a big flirt and may have said something", the report stated.

Lobaugh, in the report, wrote "the inappropriate actions and comments have been shown to be pervasive". Lobaugh also concluded that the two touching events together "would be considered severe since they involved intentional unwanted touching.", but that the inappropriate comments themselves would not be considered severe.

Lobaugh also wrote in the report " It is very important to understand that two people will see events differently. It is in the eye of the complainant that the investigation must view the course of events. Several times when interviewing witnesses, they would say adamantly that a specific word was not used or the type of touch was not correct. However, they did admit that words used could have been interpreted differently. The same logic is applicable for the touch allegations. What one person may call a simple hug another can consider it a lingering hug or even a grab. It is important not to assume because one individual may define a course of events on way, another cannot see things through a different experience."

In an email to Channel 2 News Monday night, Westlake wrote “I am sincerely sorry if any of my actions or words made anyone uncomfortable. I made some comments and assumed they would be taken as I meant them, as complements (sic). I am now reconsidering things I used to view as friendly or funny. I do not feel that I inappropriately touched anyone, but as the report states- that is a matter of personal perception. I have learned a great deal from this experience, and am committed to actualizing this new knowledge into thoughtful and respectful interactions in the future."

I am honored to have served House District 40 and I apologize if I disappointed those who chose me to represent them. I will continue working to help the people of my region.”