JUNEAU, Alaska — An investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against former House member Dean Westlake, D-Kiana, was released Monday. The House Rules Committee met early Monday to discuss the report.
Westlake was accused by a number of legislative employees of sexual harassment. In one instance, a former legislative staffer alleged that Westlake grabbed her and said her hair “turned him on” and in a second incident grabbed her buttocks while passing by.
Legislative Human Resources Manager Skiff Lobaugh said he felt the investigation was important after the Anchorage Daily News reported that seven legislative staffers experienced harassment from Westlake.
“From all the allegations I was able to gather, I saw a pattern of actions that may be pervasive and that needed investigation,” Lobaugh wrote in the report. “Where one instance of an inappropriate comment or action may not meet the definition of hostile work environment sexual harassment, if there is a pattern of multiple comments or actions, then the cumulative effect may pose a violation of the Legislature’s harassment policy.”
After interviewing the victims and several witnesses who also came forward, Lobaugh found all allegations that were reported to the Legislature to be substantiated and said the actions fit the definition of sexual harassment set by the U.S Supreme Court.
“The event was clearly not quid pro quo harassment, so I analyzed it as a potential hostile work environment sexual harassment claim,” Lobaugh said. “In conclusion, the cumulative effect of Representative Westlake’s actions and comments created a hostile work environment.”
He noted that this conclusion was based on the frequency of these actions, the severity of the comments or actions, the fact that these comments and actions interfered with the victim’s ability to do their job and, finally, that actions and comments negatively affected the victim’s well-being.
House Rules Chairwoman Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux said she felt it was important to make the report public to maintain the Legislature’s goal of transparency regarding the issue of sexual misconduct.
“Dean Westlake acted inappropriately toward multiple staffers, and he rightly resigned,” LeDoux said in a statement Monday. “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.”
According to the committee, the report leaves out the names of those who came forward with stories of harassment by Westlake to maintain privacy and protect the rights of the victims.
Kodiak Republican Rep. Louse Stutes, also a member of the House Rules Committee, said the investigation was long overdue.
“The incidents detailed in the report we released today were unfortunate and should not have happened, but they did,” Stutes said. “We all need to learn from what happened and go forward with the goal of making harassment a thing of the past in the Alaska Legislature.”
Westlake resigned last month as the State Representative for District 40. House leadership urged him to give up his seat after a group of seven women came forward with personal stories of harassment from the Kiana Legislator.