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Sexual harassment culture still at Oregon Capitol, lawmaker says

Democratic Sen. Sara Gelser says she has dealt with retaliation and remains concerned for interns and legislative staffers who work in the Capitol building.
Credit: MOLLY J. SMITH / Statesman Journa
Senator Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis. (Photo: MOLLY J. SMITH / Statesman Journal)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A culture of sexual harassment at the Oregon Capitol hasn't improved more than a year after allegations surfaced involving the sexual harassment of two interns, a state senator says.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that Democratic Sen. Sara Gelser made the comment on Friday to a work group tasked with creating recommendations for rules governing harassment in the Oregon Legislature.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries previously identified two interns who reported being sexually harassed while working for former Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg. Kruse resigned following the allegations, which he denied.

Gelser came forward with the allegations against Kruse.

She said she has since dealt with retaliation from unspecified people and remains concerned for interns and legislative staffers who work in the Capitol building.

"If I had to go back in time, I probably wouldn't (file a formal complaint) again," Gelser told the Oregon State Capitol Workplace Harassment work group. "And that's a real problem."

She said that last month she received a letter at her home calling her a "liberal, Democrat hypocrite." She said the letter contained the message: "Kruse wasn't about the harassment was it? It was about the votes."

She said the letter was sent anonymously, but she suspects it was from another senator.

The work group is expected to send final recommendations to the state Legislature in the next several weeks. It has another meeting scheduled for Dec. 17.

The group has come up with some draft proposals. One is to create an equity office with two people. One person would handle investigations, and the other would oversee training and provide a confidential process for making complaints.

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