Sen. David Wilson committed a “very serious case of retaliation,” according to a report compiled by the Alaska Legislature’s HR director and released Wednesday by the state senate’s rules committee.
Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said in a prepared statement that Wilson has been placed on probation, had his travel restricted, was required to undergo training, and had to write a letter of apology to a staffer involved in a June incident.
In that incident, Wilson appeared to “upskirt” the staffer by placing his cellphone under her skirt. He was never formally accused of harassment, and a subsequent investigation found he held his cellphone several inches from the skirt and did not break any laws. A video of the incident has not been released by the Legislature despite public records requests, and Wilson has consistently denied the story.
In December, shortly before the results of the investigation were released to the public, Wilson held an Anchorage press conference to declare his innocence. In that press conference, Wilson said Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, should resign from his post for mishandling the investigation into the incident.
The Legislature’s HR director, Skiff Lobaugh, found that statement amounted to retaliation because it would have affected the staffer in the June incident. That staffer works for Edgmon and has consistently declined to comment publicly. The staffer declined again Wednesday.
Though the incident took place in June, it garnered attention in November after political blogger Jeff Landfield mentioned it and reporters from KTVA-TV and the Empire shared their recollection of events. At that time, the staffer told the Empire, “It’s inappropriate behavior. It seemed weird and inappropriate.” The woman never filed a harassment complaint and said she never intended for the incident to go public.
According to the report released Wednesday, if Edgmon had resigned as Speaker, his staffing budget would shrink, and he would have less money for hiring staff and paying them. That “would have a direct adverse effect on the (staffer) with loss of pay or even employment depending on the circumstances of the leadership change,” the report said.
Lobaugh also found fault with Wilson’s denials in the press conference. Wilson repeatedly stated “it did not happen,” and Lobaugh interpreted that statement to mean Wilson was denying the June incident. Wilson told the Empire this week that he intended it to apply to the idea that he stuck his cellphone under a staffer’s skirt. He has acknowledged creating an uncomfortable situation but has consistently denied that specific action.
Asked Wednesday by the Empire whether he intended to retaliate, Wilson said, “Of course not.”
He urged Alaskans to read the report of the June incident and watch the video of the press conference — both can be found online — and make up their own minds.
“Please view both. It’s hard to be found guilty of retaliation when you were found innocent of that non-complaint,” he said. He added, “I respect the decisions by my leadership in terms of feeling they had to do what they had to do.”
Wilson alluded to the work of a joint House-Senate subcommittee that is drafting new harassment-prevention guidelines for the Legislature and said he hopes third-party investigation and reporting procedures will be in place soon.
“It’s been very difficult for my wife, my family and I to go through this process, and I hope the new policies will fix it and no one will ever have to go through this again,” he said.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or call 523-2258.