Oregon GOP senator accuses Dems of hostile work environment

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"Disagreement is inevitable. Lack of civility is not."

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An investigation into formal complaints submitted by a Republican lawmaker in the Oregon Senate against multiple Democratic lawmakers has found no basis for allegations of a hostile work environment in the wake of another Republican lawmaker making threats against state troopers.

The complaints, which were filed by state Sen. Alan Olsen (R-Canby) and backed by various Republican lawmakers, including state Sens. Tim Knopp and Dennis Linthicum, accused Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, Senate President Peter Courtney, House Speaker Tina Kotek, and state Sens. James Manning Jr. and Sara Gelser of various workplace harassment of Senate Republicans during and after their flight from the state for nine days during their protest of climate change legislation. The cap-and-trade bill ultimately failed.

One of the Republican lawmakers, Sen. Brian Boquist, made national headlines after he reportedly said state police should “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if they tried to bring him back to Oregon after leaving the state. Boquist has since filed a federal lawsuit against Democratic lawmakers alleging they violated his constitutional rights following a bipartisan committee’s unanimous decision requiring him to give at least 12 hours notice in writing if he plans on coming to the Capitol and requiring more state troopers when he is in attendance.

The investigative findings were prepared by Sarah J. Ryan, an attorney with the Portland-based law firm Jackson Lewis P.C., and released on Tuesday. It’s unclear how much the state will have to pay for the investigation.

Burdick was accused by Olsen for creating a hostile work environment after she referred to the 11 Republican senators as engaging in an act of terrorism by denying a quorum. However, the investigation found that while Burdick’s comment was “ill-advised and potentially offensive,” it didn’t meet the criteria set forth by a rule that was enacted in January of 2019 to ensure a “safe and respectful workplace that is free from harassment.”

In Olsen’s complaint against Gelser accused the Corvallis Democrat, among other things, of fostering “distrust and fear.” All of the accusations were found unsubstantiated.

“Several witnesses (from both sides of the aisle) expressed regret resulting from the lack of civility and respect at the Oregon Legislature during the 2019 Session,” Ryan wrote. “Disagreement is inevitable. Lack of civility is not.”

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