State Sen. Sara Gelser has filed a formal legislative complaint against Jeff Kruse, charging her fellow senator with sexual misconduct.
Gelser, a Democrat from Corvallis, also has called for the expulsion of Kruse, a Republican from Roseburg.
In the complaint, which was filed Wednesday, Gelser alleges that Kruse touched her inappropriately multiple times during the period from 2011, when she was in the Oregon House, and 2017, although the complaint under Senate rules only can include conduct in the past 12 months.
Gelser’s charges, which are itemized in the formal complaint (see this story online for the full text), are fairly graphic and include multiple occasions of unwanted touching, including twice on the Senate floor in which other senators intervened on Gelser’s behalf. Gelser also requested seating assignments away from Kruse and instructed staffers not to meet with him or to send interns to his office.
Gelser previously filed informal complaints in 2016 and this year, but said she was frustrated that the conduct continued. Gelser said that as many as 15 other women also have accused Kruse of unwanted touching.
“Every person, man or woman, should be able to go to work and do their job and not be touched,” Gelser told the Gazette-Times. “It’s just that simple. I hope that people will feel empowered to use the process in their workplace so that, ultimately, the harasser is responsible for his behavior.”
In the case of Kruse, Gelser said that even after he was advised of the problems in the informal complaints “he continued that behavior, and the only way to take that out of the workplace is to take Sen. Kruse out of the workplace.”
Kruse has denied Gelser’s allegations (he did not respond to calls to his office seeking comment).
Here is how the formal complaint process works:
• An independent investigator will be hired to review Gelser’s charges. That hire, according to Senate Rule 27, must take place within 10 days of receipt of the complaint. The investigator will have 60 days to conduct the inquiry, although extensions can be granted.
• The investigator will conduct a public hearing before the Senate’s Special Committee on Conduct. Kruse is allowed to have his attorney available and to participate in his own defense at the hearing. The committee can either take no action or it can reprimand, censure or expel the member.
The committee includes four senators, two Republicans and two Democrats.
The current committee includes Gelser, who will be replaced on the panel by a senator chosen by Senate President Peter Courtney.
Courtney, who last month reprimanded Kruse, stripped him of his committee assignments and removed his office door, said in a statement released Wednesday by his office:
“The Senate takes the filing of a formal complaint very seriously. Senate rules require that we provide ‘a safe and respectful workplace that is free of harassment.’ Senate Rules provide due process for both the complainant and the subject of the complaint. They require an independent investigation and a subsequent public hearing by the Senate Special Committee on Conduct. We will follow these rules to resolve this complaint.”
Gelser expressed concerns that the process might last until May.
“For a workplace that is a very, very long time for a person to have access to young staffers and interns,” she said.