A second lawmaker filed a formal complaint on Tuesday accusing Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, of unwanted touching, even after she asked legislative lawyers to intervene.
In her complaint, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, detailed a recent conversation with Kruse in which she explained why his behavior bothered her.
Steiner Hayward’s complaint said Sen. Kruse started to touch her more in 2015, including very close hugs, putting his hands on her thigh and sitting close enough that his leg touched hers.
After a more recent meeting in her legislative office, on Oct. 19 of this year, Steiner Hayward said she reached out to the Republican lawmaker to shake his hand.
“This time, however, he took my right hand with his right hand, placed his left hand underneath our hands, and brought my hand up and kissed it,” Steiner Hayward wrote.
Steiner Hayward said in her complaint that his response was to explain, “he’s a hugger” and note he was not interested in having sex with her.
Steiner Hayward said she reiterated to him why his behavior made her uncomfortable, to which he replied, according to the complaint, “I really don’t see why this is such a big deal.”
Steiner Hayward said she first tried to explain to Kruse why she felt his behavior was problematic starting in 2015.
“I told him on several occasions that I was uncomfortable with this level of physical contact, that it was unprofessional, and that as a survivor of domestic violence those behaviors were particularly problematic for me,” Steiner Hayward wrote.
Earlier this month, state Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, gave a detailed account of Kruse’s alleged harassment of her at the Oregon Capitol. She accused him of touching her breasts and placing his hand on her thigh under a dais. In her complaint, she also stated as many as 15 other women have accused Kruse of unwanted touching. Kruse was stripped of his committee assignments because of the allegations of inappropriate touching.
Both Gelser and Steiner Hayward mention there are other “women staff members and lobbyists who have also been subjected to inappropriate behavior by Sen. Kruse.”
Kruse has already been relieved of his committee assignments and had the door removed from his Senate office for smoking. Gelser has asked for his expulsion from the Senate.
For formal complaints, there is an independent fact-finding investigation by someone unaffiliated with the legislative branch. An investigation is underway. Investigators make a report to a special committee on conduct, which exists in both chambers. That committee then conducts what essentially amounts to a hearing. Both the accused lawmaker and alleged victim present testimony and witnesses to the committee.
Steiner Hayward said she ultimately decided to file a formal complaint because of Kruse’s “repeated denials of inappropriate behavior” and that he refused to acknowledge that she “had the right to determine what (she) considered appropriate physical interactions.”