Facing the possibility of being the first person ever to be expelled from the state Legislature, embattled Democratic lawmaker Rep. Diego Hernandez is resigning.
“Today I tendered my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians and so I can move forward with my life and focus on my health and family,” Hernandez said in a brief statement sent to OPB on Sunday evening.
Earlier this weekend, a judge rejected Hernandez’s legal effort to stop the vote on his expulsion. The entire House was scheduled to vote as soon as Tuesday on whether to expel the Portland Democrat after a panel of lawmakers determined he created a hostile work environment for three women. It would have taken a two-thirds vote or 40 members of the House to expel Hernandez.
The third-term Democratic lawmaker, once considered a rising star of his party, had faced allegations of harassment for months. After an independent investigation, members of the House Conduct Committee determined he harassed and created a hostile workplace at the state Capitol for three women.
The women involved in the investigation all worked at the state Capitol or had jobs that required interacting with the state Legislature. Conduct committee members sided with the women, finding Hernandez used his position of power as an elected official to pressure two of them to either resume a relationship with him or jeopardize their careers. Another woman, who had a longer relationship with him, spoke of his controlling and abusive behavior.
Hernandez maintained that he did not have a meaningful chance to present his side of the case. He filed a lawsuit, which included several text messages with the women who were part of the investigation and extensive communication records that were not presented during legislative hearings examining his behavior.
Hernandez’s lawsuit sought a temporary restraining order to stop the vote on expulsion and to prevent any other sanctions. But United States District Court Judge Ann Aiken made it clear the Oregon Legislature has been “entrusted with power over policing its own members,” and she was leery of allowing the court to intervene.