AP: Legislatures lack public records on harassment

Published 8:07 am Thursday, April 12, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In the past 15 months, dozens of state lawmakers have been forced from office, removed from their leadership roles, reprimanded or publicly accused of sexual misconduct in a mounting backlash against misbehavior by those in power.

Yet the majority of state legislative chambers across the country have no publicly available records of any sexual misconduct claims over the past 10 years. They say no complaints were made, no tally was kept or they do not legally have to disclose it, The Associated Press found.

Some lawmakers and experts on sexual wrongdoing in the workplace say that suggests legislators are not taking the problem seriously.

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“There is no good excuse for not making that information available,” said Republican state Sen. Karen McConnaughay of Illinois. “If the voters don’t know these things are going on, then they can’t very well make a judgment about our behavior.”

The AP filed records requests with the legislative chambers in every state — 99 in all — seeking information on the number of sexual misconduct or harassment complaints made against lawmakers since 2008. The requests also asked for any documents pertaining to those complaints and any financial settlements.

That process unearthed roughly 70 complaints from about two dozen states and nearly $3 million in sexual harassment settlements paid by eight states. But the actual figures almost certainly are higher.

That’s because many states that refused to turn over any information had legislators who had been publicly accused and forced out of office or leadership positions.