- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) Virginia House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. will meet privately with Republican colleagues at the Capitol tomorrow to discuss complaints of sexual harassment, Republican lawmakers said yesterday.
Several Republican legislators have demanded an explanation from Mr. Wilkins, Amherst Republican, since The Washington Post reported Friday that Mr. Wilkins paid more than $100,000 to settle a sexual harassment complaint by a 26-year-old woman in his hometown. Mr. Wilkins has denied the claim but has refused to elaborate on the reported settlement.
Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Wilkins by telephone at his home last night were unsuccessful.
House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican, said the meeting "will give the speaker an opportunity to answer questions" from anxious lawmakers.
"There is great interest in this by many people," Mr. Griffith told the Roanoke Times. Mr. Griffith is second to Mr. Wilkins in the House Republican hierarchy and would be a leading candidate to become speaker if Mr. Wilkins were ousted.
Citing unidentified sources, The Post reported that Mr. Wilkins, 65, reached an out-of-court settlement with a clerical worker at Wilkins Construction Co. after the woman accused him of making repeated advances last summer at the company's Amherst headquarters. Mr. Wilkins sold his interest in the company more than a decade ago but kept his legislative office at the site.
Republican leaders conferred by phone Friday to decide how to handle the controversy and agreed they needed to hear from Mr. Wilkins.
"Everyone agrees that there's serious lack of judgment on the speaker's part," said Delegate Leo C. Wardrup Jr. of Virginia Beach, chairman of the House Republican Caucus. "There's also the possibility of other allegations which may be forthcoming, which reflect a lack of understanding and sensitivity in his dealings with members of the opposite sex."
Mr. Wardrup sent Republican delegates the memo yesterday informing them of the meeting tomorrow.
Mr. Griffith said he expects most of the caucus' 65 members to attend.


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