Report: Kruse has long history of harassment toward women

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- An independent investigator hired by the Oregon Legislature found that Republican State Sen. Jeff Kruse (Roseburg) engaged in a pattern of unwanted physical conduct toward women in the capitol and that he "stubbornly refused to change that behavior after beign warned about it in 2016.

The investigation, conducted by Lake Oswego employment attorney Dian Rubanoff, was completed on Friday -- just over 2 months after fellow state senators Sara Gelser and Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward filed formal complaints against Kruse. Rubanoff was hired 11 days after, on Nov. 26, to conduct the investigation. 

Read the full Rubanoff Report at the bottom

The 51-page report contains allegations and responses from Kruse for events dating back to 2011. 

The Senate Committee on Conduct will hold a public hearing on the complaints against Kruse on Feb. 22 where the committee will report a recommendation to reprimand, censure, expel or take no action against Kruse.

Governor Kate Brown said Kruse's behavior isn't acceptable in any workplace, and that he should step down. 

"The legislature must immediately take steps to ensure that every person who walks into Oregon’s Capitol is safe and respected, allowing the focus in the capitol to be where it should: on serving the people of Oregon," Brown said in a statement. 

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek agreed with Brown, also calling on Kruse to resign.

“The third-party investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against Senator Jeff Kruse was thorough and fair. It showed a pervasive and persistent pattern of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior that is not permissible for anyone, let alone an elected official.  
The people of Oregon and the women who work in the Capitol deserve better. He should resign, and if he chooses not to, the Senate should expel him. 
Thank you to the brave women who came forward with their reports of harassment. I promise to do everything in my power to make sure their courage brings about real change.”

Kruse, who cooperated with the investigation, categorically denied Gelser's claims on Oct. 20. As recently as November, the report said Kruse made statements to Hayward saying "women cry wolf," "men get harassed too" and that he didn't see why Hayward's concerns were "a big deal." 

Kruse told Rubanoff in December that a "light bulb went off" after a counseling session concerning his behavior. The report said Kruse talked about "falling back into old patterns" for why he didn't change his behavior and that "it's not easy to change when you have been doing something for 67 years," according to the report. 

State Senate President Peter Courtney released this statement regarding Rubanoff's report:

“This is very serious. The Senate Committee on Conduct has the critical task of considering the facts and making a recommendation to the full Senate. This is important work that requires careful thought and attention. I’m not going to do anything or say anything to prejudge, compromise or prejudice the process spelled out in the rules adopted by our members.” 

Gelser talked with KOIN 6 News in November about the claims against Kruse.

"This issue for me isn't about the experience I had," Gelser said. "It's about the culture in my workplace, it's about the fact that sexual harassment is not a partisan issue. It's a workplace issue and it's something we have the power to change.

"The stories I have heard from women over the past 2 months about their experiences in the Capitol and activities associated with it are so disheartening. I want those women and some men to be able to see change at the end of all this."

Kruse, a Republican State Senator from Roseburg, was previously stripped of his committee assignments. 

Rubanoff wrote in her report, "I do not believe that Senator Kruse is a bad person or that he indented to hurt or offend anyone." She said he had a good sense of humor and a good working relationship with many in the capitol. She even said, through the investigation process, that she enjoyed getting to know Kruse. 

"Having said all of that, I find that there is a longstanding patter of Senator Kruse engaging in unwelcome physical contact toward females in the workplace, including Senator Gelser and Senator Steiner-Hayward, and that he stubbornly refused to change that behavior after being warned about it in March 2016."

Ultimately, Rubanoff reported that she was "concerned" if Kruse is allowed to stay in the legislature without specific conditions that he needs to satisfy. Rubanoff, using Kruse's words, said she'd be worried he would "fall back into old patterns" again. 

Notable witness statements and allegations, and Kruse's responses to them

All of the following information comes directly from Rubanoff's report. Kruse's response to the allegations, via Rubanoff, are followed in italics. 

- An unnamed Democratic House Representative, who worked with Kruse, said he had been very physical with her, often times putting zero space between them. She said she "felt trapped and like she could not get away," according to the report. The Representative said she didn't tell Kruse because she didn't want to alienate him because he was an ally on policy issues.

Kruse's response: When asked if he hugged any female representatives and "pulled them in close" during this time period, Kruse could not recall the name of the representative. 

- A Democratic Senator who has frequently worked with Kruse said he gets very close to her and frequently hugs her. She said she just accepted it and "she does not believe Senator Kruse would (have) any reason to know that she would prefer him not to do it."

Kruse's response: When asked about the incident and if he gave her a hug and pulled her in close, Kruse told Rubanoff "I may have. I'm not going to say it didn't happen."

- Sen. Ginny Burdick said Kruse has invaded her personal space, even though it didn't feel inappropriate. She did tell Rubanoff a time where she intervened after she saw Kruse putting his hands on the arms on one of her female staff members. She said she told him to "get your hands off my staff." Burdick would later intervene with Kruse when she and Sen. Steiner Hayward saw Kruse make Gelser uncomfortable on the senate floor. Burdick said these were the only times she's intervened with someone during time at the capitol.

- A law student who worked in Kruse's office in 2017 said she sought to work in another senator's office to get away from Kruse. That law student alleged the following things against Kruse:

  • Kruse allegedly called her "little girl" and told her she was "sexy."
  • She said Kruse would come up behind her at her desk, put his hands on her shoulders, rest his chin on top of her head. She said she would "sit very still and wait for it to be over."
  • She said there was a lot of hugging and that he would grab her and pull he rin close for hugs. She alleged Kruse's hand would sometimes "extend down to her upper breast."
  • A male staffer said Kruse hugged him once and said to the aforementioned law student "Look, I do this with guys too."
  • The law student said she never thought there was anything serious enough that she felt obligated to report it and that she tried to avoid incident because then she would have to report it.

Kruse's response: When asked by Rubanoff about the allegations made by the law student, Kruse didn't deny them, saying he may have told her that she was sexy, and pretty, and they he may have also called her little girl. He said he may have come behind her while she was at her desk, put his hands on her shoulder and put his chin on her head -- if he was looking at something on the computer screen. He said he didn't recall hugging a male staffer and saying "Look, I do this with guys too."

- Another law student who worked in the office at the time had similar experiences. That law student said she had applied to specifically be a part of Kruse's staff because of her interests and a suggestion from a professor. She applied for other positions a few weeks after she started. She alleged Kruse would give her neck massages during her research and that he would put his hands on her lower back and hips during conversation. She said she felt trapped. The student told Rubanoff that she definitely didn't feel she could tell Kruse she was uncomfortable because she was a law student, and he was a senator who "has all the power."

Kruse's response: When asked by Rubanoff about the allegations made by the second law student, Kruse did not deny them.

- A female lobbyist made a complaint to the Legislature's director of human resources on Nov. 22, alleging that Kruse "cupped the buttocks" of the woman during a gathering for a photograph with Governor Kate Brown. The lobbyist said she turned around and made eye contact with Kruse, who "did not move his hand or say I'm sorry or acknowledge it in any way as being an accident." 

Kruse's response: When asked by Rubanoff about the allegations made by the lobbyist, Kruse said no, adding he didn't recall it. Rubanoff wrote that she asked him if he could've accidentally cupped her buttocks, to which Kruse responded: 'To cup someone's buttocks accidentally? How do you do that?'

 

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