State Sen. Jeff Kruse has resigned. The special state Senate committee hearing into his conduct, set for Feb. 22, was not held. But there is a strong sense that the sexual misconduct issue will continue to be an important one in the state Capitol.
“This is the first time that the process was used, and I see lots of room for improvement,” said Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, the main accuser of Kruse, a Roseburg Republican, who resigned Feb. 8.
A 51-page report released Feb. 6 by independent investigator Dian Rubanoff said Kruse had subjected Gelser and Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward to unwanted touching and that he groped or gave lingering hugs to many other women working at the Capitol.
A formal complaint filed by Gelser in November had triggered a requirement that a legislative committee arrange for an outside investigation of her claims. Gelser also was honored by Time magazine, along with dozens of others, in its Person of the Year issue for “breaking the silence” on sexual misconduct.
“If the timeline for this process had played out, a Senate vote would not have been held until May,” said Gelser, whose district includes Albany and Corvallis. “That’s way too long.”
Gelser’s House colleages, Andy Olson of Albany and Dan Rayfield of Corvallis, think that Kruse made the right decision to resign rather than let the process play out.
“It was long past time for Sen. Jeff Kruse to resign,” Rayfield said.
“I am glad he resigned before hearings were held. ,” Olson said. "Kruse could no longer be an effective leader for his district, and the victims did not need this process prolonged any longer.”
Kruse told Rubanoff that he believed his behavior was "instinctual" and that although he wanted to change, "it's not easy to change when you have been doing something for 67 years."
Gelser complimented Rubanoff for the “phenomenal” report and said that an independent investigator is a crucial component that should be retained as the Legislature looks to fine-tune the process. Gelser said that limiting the complaints to conduct that occurred in the past year is too limiting and also emphasized that it’s not just Capitol staffers who must be protected.
“It also has to be a safe place for the public,” she said.
Olson agreed. ‘It is important that all feel safe and free of harassment,” he said.
“Our top priority now must be to change the culture within the Legislature that fosters silence and fear,” Rayfield said. “Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney are currently engaged in a review of the legislature’s policies. I am confident that they will make progress in ensuring that the Capitol is safe and welcoming.”