Kruse defiant in wake of harassment report

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Kate Brown has called on a Republican state senator to resign after a damning independent probe revealed he groped female employees and legislators at the Capitol.

But Kruse agreed to stay away from the Capitol for the next two weeks, until a public hearing into his conduct that has been scheduled for February 22.

Rubanoff found that the Roseburg Republican engaged in a "longstanding pattern of unwelcome physical contact" with women at the Capitol. Sara Gelser, of Corvallis, and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, of Portland, who have accused him of inappropriate touching and harassment.

Kruse's actions created a hostile workplace, the investigator said.

Rubanoff wrote in her report that Kruse told her he had "no recollection" of most of the alleged misdeeds.

Kruse told the investigator 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".

One of the law students was hesitant to come forward, fearing that her complaint against Kruse would ruin her career.

Another law student who worked for Kruse told the investigator the senator would tightly hug her or put his hands on her hips when they were near each other.

"The third-party investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against Senator Jeff Kruse was thorough and fair. This is why we have accepted Senator Kruse's, a 22-year veteran of the OR legislature offer to leave the Capitol building, taking with him the opportunity to represent his district pending the conclusion of the process".

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The investigator found that two young women who worked in his office in the 2017 legislative session had reported feeling uncomfortable due to his touching, and that a young lobbyist reported late a year ago that he had "cupped" her behind at an event at the governor's office in September 2017.

She filed a formal complaint in November, which triggered a requirement that a legislative committee arrange for an outside investigation of her claims. If he doesn't resign, the Senate should expel Kruse, she said.

Prior to the report's public posting Tuesday, Gelser said in an email to the Pamplin/EO Capital Bureau that she had not yet read the report and did not want to comment on it before reading it. The investigation culminated in a 55-page report detailing several complaints dating back to 2011, which found Kruse repeatedly targeted colleagues and subordinates.

Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters of Salem declined to comment to the newspaper. "The process is still ongoing, and will continue with the Senate Conduct Committee meeting".

Tuesday's report is scheduled for consideration by the Senate Conduct Committee February 22. "The people of OR and the women who work in the Capitol deserve better".

Gelser requested the removal of Kruse from the Oregon Senate.

Gelser tweeted October 16 that a member of the Senate Republican Caucus had groped "female members and staff" at the Capitol. On another occasion, Gelser told Rubanoff that Kruse "wrapped his left arm around her shoulder with his fingers extending down toward her breast, and placed his right hand on her thigh with his fingers under the hem of her skirt". Rubanoff wrote that Kruse's misconduct escalated in 2017 after strict warnings against breaching boundaries with women, the Oregonian reported. The other women cited in the report who complained weren't named.

The senators' complaints sparked Rubanoff's investigation - the first time in memory the Legislature's formal sexual harassment reporting policy and conduct committee process has been invoked.

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