Politics

Sen. Jeff Kruse resigns after misbehavior investigation

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) -- Just a day after vowing to fight calls for him to resign, Oregon State Senator Jeff Kruse said he will step down on March 15. 

Kruse, who represents Oregon's first district, has been accused of inappropriate touching and hugging female senators, interns and other women who came into contact with him at the capitol. He continues to deny the allegations.

"I regret that I will not have the opportunity to defend myself before the Senate Conduct Committee.  However, today I tender my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians without distraction," Kruse said in a statement on Thursday. 

"I was stunned by the severity of treatment that young women experienced when they came to our capitol, this capitol,"  Senator Sara Gelser told KOIN 6 News after his announcement. 

Gelser is among those accusing Kruse of inappropriately touching her. A 51-page report was also just released documenting the allegations.

Investigator Dian Rubanoff concluded Kruse created a hostile workplace because of his actions. 

The report alleges inappropriate conduct from Kruse dating back to 2011. He was warned about his behavior back in 2016, but the report said Kruse "stubbornly refused to change that behavior." 

According to her report, Kruse said he had no recollection of most of the alleged misdeeds and explained his behavior was "instinctual." He also said that although he wanted to change, "it's not easy to change when you've been doing something for 67 years."

That "something" included calling a law student sexy and "little girl," plus a lot of unwanted hugging and touching.

Rubanoff determined he had behaved inappropriately with more than 10 women at the capitol during his time in the legislature. 

"The report speaks for itself," Gelser said. 

Political analyst and Pacific University professor Jim Moore said the pressure has been building for more than 2 years after the first allegations against Kruse were documented in 2016. 

"When that much evidence is there, the support of your colleagues just melts away," Moore said. 

Moore said county commissioners from Kruse's district will be tasked with choosing a replacement from within the republican party.

"Because his resignation doesn't take place until march, there is no chance there can be a short process to get somebody into represent his district before the end of the 5 week session we are in, so it really short changes the people in his district, they have no voice in this particular session we are in," Moore said. 

Kruse's full statement: 

"For civil rights to be meaningful, there must be civil rights for all people, including the right to fundamental fairness for persons accused of harassment.

In recent weeks there have been allegations that I harassed female colleagues while talking to them in public areas of the Senate.  I continue to deny these allegations and I regret that I will not have the opportunity to defend myself before the Senate Conduct Committee.  However, today I tender my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians without distraction and my constituents may receive the fullest representation they are due.

Serving the people of Curry and portions of Coos, Douglas, Josephine and Jackson counties for the past 22 years has been the greatest honor of my life.  I have been proud to serve alongside my colleagues in the Oregon House and Senate, and I am very proud of my accomplishments in healthcare and education.  I look forward to returning to the wonderful community that has supported me for over two decades."

Statement from Senator Jackie Winters:

Senator Kruse has tendered his resignation today, effective March 15, 2018. I want to thank him for his 22 years of service to Oregon. He has been a true advocate for his district and rural Oregon. As we move forward, we must work to provide a safe work environment for all.

Statement from Senate President Peter Courtney:

“The report of the independent investigator released earlier this week made it clear that his inappropriate conduct went far beyond what is alleged in the formal complaints. Just as I believed Senators Gelser and Steiner Hayward in 2016 and again last fall, I believed the report.

This week, I have been working with leadership in the Senate Republican Caucus to secure his resignation from the Senate. 

While Senator Kruse’s resignation ends a difficult chapter for the Legislature, we cannot allow it to end this discussion. We owe it to the courageous women who came forward to seize this moment.

The Legislative Branch is committed to providing a safe and respectful workplace that is free of harassment. Those words need to be more than just language in a policy. Each and every one of us must commit to creating a culture where harassment in any form is not tolerated. We must create a culture where victims are empowered to speak up. We must create a culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Oregon and her people expect no less from us. We should expect no less from each other.”

Statement from Senator Steiner Hayward: 

“Senator Kruse’s resignation is long overdue. The detail in the formal complaints made in November by Senator Gelser and myself should have been compelling enough for him to recognize the inappropriateness of his behavior.

I am relieved that he has finally acknowledged the correct course of action. His resignation will allow the many victims identified through the investigation to begin their healing; the Senate to move forward with the people’s business; and his constituents to once again have representation in the Legislature.

I am hopeful that the thoroughness of the independent investigation will empower other women to speak up when they are subjected to harassment.”

KOIN 6 News reporter Cole Miller contributed to this report.


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