Oklahoma panel seeks to expel lawmaker accused of harassment

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 02, 2017 7:11 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma lawmaker who admitted asking his legislative assistant to send him topless photos and accompany him to a strip club should be expelled from office, a special House committee recommended Thursday following a monthlong investigation.

The chairman of the panel said he believes a two-thirds majority of the 101-member House will vote to expel Republican Rep. Dan Kirby of Tulsa if he doesn't resign.

It would be the first time in Oklahoma history that the House votes to expel one of its members.

"Contrary to the stated position of Rep. Kirby, House members should never solicit or receive inappropriate materials from a (legislative assistant) or any other House employee," said committee chair Republican Rep. Josh Cockroft. "The actions of Mr. Kirby ... were inappropriate and below the standards expected of a member of the House of Representatives."

Kirby has acknowledged an inappropriate relationship with his assistant, but said it was consensual and denied wrongdoing.

"I do feel that the committee's recommendations are far more severe than necessary," Kirby said in a statement. Kirby said he would speak publicly about the 110-page report in the next couple of days after he's had time to review it.

It's not uncommon for sexual harassment complaints to go unreported. Gov. Mary Fallin — the first woman to lead the state — acknowledged Thursday before the report's release that she has experienced such harassment during her political career in Oklahoma over more than two decades.

She went so far as to ask female journalists and policy aides in a Capitol meeting room to raise a hand if they hadn't felt harassed, and only one did.

When asked why she never reported the incidents, Fallin responded: "Once I got through with them, it didn't happen again."

When The Oklahoman newspaper first reported the allegations against Kirby in December, he submitted his letter of resignation to the House speaker, but then rescinded the resignation several days later, saying he was given bad advice.

The report released Thursday said Kirby acknowledged asking the woman for photos during the time when she worked for him in 2012, 2013 and 2016 and that he invited her to the strip club.

The panel also looked into allegations of sexual harassment leveled by a second woman who worked for Kirby. But Cockroft said those allegations were the subject of a confidential wrongful-termination settlement agreement reached between the second accuser and former House Speaker Jeff Hickman that included a $44,500 payment of House funds to the woman and her attorneys.

Reports of the settlement using public funds sparked outrage and prompted House leaders to request that the committee determine whether the expenditure was legal.

The investigation determined that Hickman had the authority to authorize the agreement and the payment, Cockroft said.

"Under the constitution and the House rules, the speaker is the leader of the House, its CEO in other words, and has the authority to enter into contracts for the House and pay the expenses of the House," Cockroft said.

The committee also determined that a sexual harassment complaint was lodged in 2015 by a high school page against a second legislator, Rep. Will Fourkiller, regarding inappropriate comments that he made. Fourkiller declined to appear before the committee, and the panel's report says Fourkiller did not acknowledge or deny making the comments.

"The comments, if they were made, would have been completely unprofessional and inappropriate," Cockroft said.

The panel recommended sensitivity training for Fourkiller and blocking him from interacting with the legislative body's page program for a year.

Kirby and Fourkiller are not facing criminal allegations.

___

Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy