Val Hoyle, the Lane County Democrat and former legislator who takes over leadership of the Bureau of Labor and Industries on Jan. 7, won’t have time to ease into her new job. A report from the bureau, released Jan. 3, demands her immediate attention.
The BOLI report finds the Legislature is a hotbed of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment and that legislative leadership and administrators were aware of the problems and sought to hush them up.
Moreover, while the investigation began in August 2018 — more than a year after then-Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, was accused by Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, of sexual harassment and resigned — BOLI officials found that problems were not limited to Kruse and had been going on for some time.
The report notes that leadership, including Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, retaliated against Gelser in part by, in Courtney’s case, yelling at her, and in Kotek’s by telling Gelser she was disliked in the building.
The report also catalogs incidents that involved male lawmakers from both political parties. It cites harassment of female interns and lobbyists whose ability to do their job depends on their ability to get along with the lawmakers they deal with.
Oregonians can thank outgoing BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian for uncovering the mess. He was the complainant in the case and the report largely upholds his charges.
Now it’s up to Hoyle to finish what Avakian started. She may ask for a deeper look into some of the charges in the report, or she may decide the information is as complete as it need be for action.
Either way, she cannot simply relegate the report to a back shelf somewhere to gather dust. Lawmakers deny many of the findings in it, and that alone calls for further action, as do the finding themselves.