Republican Oregon Senator Jeff Kruse has been put under investigation after a series of allegations of inappropriate behavior and unwanted touching were made against him, according to a new Associated Press report.
Democratic Senator Sara Gelser has led the accusations, saying that his behavior lasts for years and consisted of prolonged hugs and unwarranted touching. She only filed a formal complaint against Kruse in November, as she was worried about causing a disruption and about the effect that a formal complaint would have on her relationship with other lawmakers.
After Kruse, another Democratic female Senator, Elizabeth Steiner Harward, also lodged a formal complaint. A separate investigative report found that Kruse also touched and hugged two law students who used to work for him, Republican and non-partisan staffers, a former legislative aide, and a lobbyist. Now, a four-member Committee on Conduct will consider the report and make a recommendation that Kruse be reprimanded, censured, expelled, or that no action be taken.
“What made all of this worse is that not only was I continuing to experience this behavior, but I was witnessing this happen to other women,” Gelser wrote in her formal complaint. “I felt guilty when I watched other women experience this.”
Gelser recounted a moment on the House floor back in 2011 when Kruse leaned onto her back and put his hands and arms down her shoulders and across her breasts. “I was stunned and frozen,” she said.
Kruse is also accused of groping or giving “lingering” hugs to a slew of other people who worked closely to him. One law student who worked with Kruse said that he would call her his “little girl” and call her “sexy” while at work. In addition, Kruse would “pull her into a tight hug at least twice a week.” She was “terrified” of how it might affect her career, and so she did not speak up about it at the time.
An investigative report by investigator and employment law attorney Dian Rubanoff found that Kruse hugged and touched more women than men, and all of the people who have complained about him so far are women.
Rubanoff wrote in her report that Kruse did engage in a pattern of offensive conduct. Nevertheless, the investigator also wrote that she did “not believe that Senator Kruse is a bad person, or that he has intended to hurt or offend anyone.”
Kruse described his behavior as “instinctual.” He told investigators he wanted to change but “it’s not easy to change when you have been doing something for 67 years.”
Kruse has not been inside the Capitol building while the review is under way. Several politicians, including Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, have expressed their belief that Kruse should resign.
“I hope that he does,” Democratic Rep. Diego Hernandez said Wednesday. “Two weeks [out of] the building is not enough. He needs to resign, and I think there are many folks in this building who feel the same way.”
Although he could not be reached for comment by the AP, Kruse told his hometown newspaper The News-Review that he does not have plans to step down.
“I have no plan to do anything different than what I’m currently doing,” he told the paper. “We’re still in a formal process here. I have significant issues with the report.”