Rep. Hernandez accuses Speaker Kotek of ‘abuse of power’

Politics

The tort claim notice was made public Monday

Oregon State Rep. Diego Hernandez (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — State Rep. Diego Hernandez has filed a tort claim against the Oregon State Legislature for damages “as a result of the conduct of certain persons in state government and in particular the Oregon House of Representatives.”

The claim specifically accuses House Speaker Tina Kotek of abuse of power, as well as discrimination and the “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” among other claims.

The legal filing comes a week after Hernandez, a two-term Democrat from Portland, was ordered by the House Committee on Conduct not to have any contact with two of the seven women who have made accusations while an investigation proceeded into allegations of sexual harassment and creating a hostile workplace. Five of the seven women have remained anonymous.

“…please consider this letter as a formal notice that Representative Hernandez intends to file a civil action for damages against the State of Oregon, the Oregon State Legislature, Speaker Tina Kotek, Leader Barbara Smith Warner, and perhaps others. The claims that my client has includes [sic], but are not limited to: abuse of process, discrimination (gender and national origin/race) under state and federal law, aiding and abetting discrimination, bullying/mobbing, whistleblowing retaliation (ORS 659A.199, ORS 659A.203, ORS659A.206), intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with a prospective economic relationship, defamation, violation of due process under state and federal law, and other potential claims.”

The tort claim notice, dated Monday, May 11, 2020 comes from Hernandez’s attorney, Kevin Lafky.

“In this politicized process– Tina Kotek was able to appoint the jury, declare me guilty, and sentence me to political and professional exile without any due process. Her process has not been about restorative justice or reconciliation, but instead persecution,” Hernandez in a written statement.

Kotek has also called for Hernandez’s resignation. In a Monday, May 4 release, Kotek said, “I believe Rep. Hernandez should resign from the Legislature and focus completely on getting the support he needs.”

Hernandez told colleagues in an April 2 letter he was taking a leave of absence from his legislative duties. He did so after Willamette Week reported that he was the subject of a restraining order alleging violent behavior while drunk. The order, sought March 3 by Andrea Valderrama, the chair of the David Douglas School Board, was lifted on March 25.

Since the order by the House Committee on Conduct was issued, Hernandez has spoken out about the allegations. On Tuesday, May 5, he told KOIN 6 News he was the target of “an organized campaign” to remove him from office.

After reading Hernandez’s statement to KOIN 6 News, Kotek released another statement vehemently denying Hernandez’s claim that he was threatened.

“Representative Hernandez’s allegation that I threatened him is absolutely false,” the House Speaker said.

KOIN 6 News has reached out to Kotek’s office for comment on this lawsuit, but has not heard back.

Read the full tort claim:

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