SALEM, Ore. – An Oregon state senator is calling for the expulsion of a fellow senator for inappropriately touching women, including herself on multiple occasions, at the Oregon State Capitol.
In a formal complaint filed Wednesday, Senator Sara Gelser says at least 15 women have reported unwanted touching or other inappropriate behavior from Senator Jeff Kruse.
In the complaint, Gelser detailed a pattern of unwanted touching from Kruse.
“Given Senator Kruse’s demonstrated inability to change behavior that has impacted so many women, the Senate has an obligation to ensure that now that this behavior is well known, it is stopped,” said Gelser.
The inappropriate touching, Gelser said, included hugs in which Kruse pressed his full body against hers, kisses on the cheek, wrapping his arms tightly around her, touching her legs and breasts, and whispering in her ear.
Gelser said she began avoiding interactions with Kruse unless it was absolutely necessary.
She detailed one encounter this year on the Senate floor where she was working alone. Gelser said Kruse “wrapped his arm around my left shoulder, but he hung the hand over my shoulder so far that his fingers touched the scar I have from a cardiac device on my left breast.” She said Kruse’s right hand was on her thigh “such that some fingers were on top of my skirt and some were under the hem of my skirt.”
Another senator saw the encounter and told Kruse to take his hands off Gelser, she said.
Gelser’s complaint triggers a formal independent investigation and hearing by the Senate Conduct Committee, which could lead to Kruse being expelled from the senate. Expulsion would require a majority vote by 2/3 of the senate.
Last month, Senate President Peter Courtney stripped Kruse of his committee assignments.
“Continuing to touch women at work is inappropriate workplace conduct of which you have already been warned,” wrote Courtney in a letter to Kruse. “Let me be very clear. Women in the Capitol do NOT want you to touch them.”
Kruse, who represents Roseburg, has previously denied any inappropriate behavior, and claimed he had not been informed of the accusations against him. KGW has reached out to Kruse for comment on the complaint. We have not heard back.