Missouri political insider accused of sexual harassment

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 6:40 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge issued a restraining order Thursday blocking a Democratic political insider accused of sexually harassing interns and employees from coming within 1,000 feet of the Missouri Capitol.

A Cole County judge granted the restraining order against David Poger, and the House launched a sexual harassment investigation.

Missouri Ethics Commission records show that Poger registered as a lobbyist between September and November in 2011. House Chief Clerk Adam Crumbliss said Poger still comes to the Capitol.

An attorney for Poger was not listed on Missouri's online court docket, and other calls to Poger were not immediately returned.

Court records provided by the House show interns on Tuesday reported Poger had previously commented on the appearance of an intern and was seen walking in a "predatory" manner around interns. Another intern said he pushed on the "intern pin" attached to her lapel and asked "Is this harassment?"

"Yes, kind of," she responded, according to court records.

In another affidavit, an intern claims Poger in January "started to make compliments towards me and started to make me feel uncomfortable." The intern accused Poger of trying to start conversations with her, sit next to her in the Capitol and ask her out to lunch — actions she said she rebuked.

Crumbliss said the House learned about the alleged harassment this week. Crumbliss said when an attorney called Poger to request he not come to the Capitol, he was "belligerent" and indicated he had no intention of staying away.

Crumbliss said the House and Senate requested the restraining order to protect employees, guests and others in the Capitol while the House investigation is ongoing.

"I have never in my time in this job encountered anything quite like this," Crumbliss said. "We had literally, in the span of hours, multiple reports coming out from various offices."

Poger worked in 2004 for Democrat Russ Carnahan, a former congressman running for lieutenant governor.

He ran for Kirkwood City Council in 2010 and lost by fewer than 100 votes. He filed to run for the council again this year, but in January he was notified that he had not collected enough valid signatures.

Kirkwood Deputy Mayor Paul Ward, one of the candidates who beat Poger in 2010, recalled Poger campaigned with strong support from local Democrats.

The restraining order against Poger follows the recent resignations of three former lawmakers accused of inappropriate behavior.

Just last week, Republican Rep. Don Gosen stepped down and admitted he had an extramarital affair. The last legislative session ended with the resignation of then-House speaker John Diehl, a Republican who acknowledged exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with an intern. Democratic Sen. Paul LeVota stepped down a few months later amid allegations that he sexually harassed interns, which he denied.

Since replacing Diehl, House Speaker Todd Richardson has placed greater emphasis on ethics, including pushing for mandatory annual sexual harassment training for staff and members that's now in place.

A House bill to also require sexual harassment training for lobbyists has been filed but has not yet been referred to a committee for review.