- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Members of Virginia's House Republican Caucus yesterday said Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. should resign, but Mr. Wilkins insisted that is not an option.
"I honestly don't think he can change anyone's mind at this point," said Delegate Richard H. Black of Loudoun, a longtime ally of Mr. Wilkins. "My impression is there is a very strong sentiment to have the speaker step down."
Mr. Wilkins met with 57 caucus members Monday to discuss recent reports that he made unwanted sexual advances toward at least two women and paid a $100,000 settlement to one of them to keep the case out of court. After the closed-door meeting, Mr. Wilkins acknowledged paying the settlement, but denied any wrongdoing.
"While some probably [think I should resign], that is not something I am considering right now," said Mr. Wilkins, who has represented his Amherst district for 24 years.
Unsatisfied with Mr. Wilkins' explanations, the full 65-member caucus has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday to reassess the situation. But several said they hope the speaker will resign in the meantime.
"He probably should resign," said Delegate Vincent F. Callahan of Fairfax, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"From the phone calls I've received [from colleagues and Republican activists], I think he's got an uphill battle . Without exception, they are very concerned and think the speaker should resign," said Delegate Jeannemarie Devolites of Fairfax, the House Republican whip.
The Washington Post reported Friday that Mr. Wilkins, 65, had paid $100,000 to Jennifer Thompson, 26, to settle sexual-harassment charges against him and to keep the case out of public scrutiny.
A second woman, Elizabeth Massie, 46, of Amherst, told a Lynchburg television station over the weekend that she also was subjected to unwanted advances from the speaker at a Christmas party last year a charge denied by the party's hosts in a Lynchburg paper this week.
Many of the caucus members said they thought Mr. Wilkins was not as forthcoming as he should have been in the meeting Monday.
"Since the initial article, the only substantive accounts were taken from the media," said Delegate Joe May, Leesburg Republican. "We expected to hear the other side of the issue to be presented and, frankly, it wasn't."
Lawmakers said their jobs become harder as each new charge comes forward.
"The stuff that was not being said before is now being said, and I think it is very difficult to put it all back in the box," said Delegate James Dillard, Fairfax Republican.
The agreement between Mr. Wilkins and Mrs. Thompson contains a confidentiality clause that precludes him from discussing in specific detail the charges that have been made against him.
Some delegates suggested he ignore that clause to save his career.
"People are not really buying into that," said Mr. Dillard. "They question why he went into a confidentiality agreement unless he was just trying to protect himself."
"If he feels he has to abide by the confidentiality agreement, he is in a real pickle," said Delegate David Albo, Springfield Republican.
Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat who worked closely with Mr. Wilkins during this past session to pass transportation referendums, yesterday issued a statement echoing the Republican lawmakers comments.
"It is incumbent on the speaker to make a full public disclosure on this matter as quickly as possible," Mr. Warner said.
"The public deserves an explanation."
When asked if he was considering breaking the confidentiality agreement, Mr. Wilkins responded flatly, "No."


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