- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma lawmaker who’s been the subject of a sexual harassment complaint and subsequent quietly arranged settlement resigned Friday.

Rep. Dan Kirby’s decision to quit came hours after attorneys for the Oklahoma House said the sexual harassment complaint against the Tulsa Republican was settled without his knowledge or input.

“Recent events have caused a situation where my continuing in office would be such a distraction that I could not serve my constituents in the manner they deserve,” Kirby wrote in a brief letter to incoming House Speaker Charles McCall that was released Friday night. “I believe that a resignation is in the best interest of the district, the House of Representatives and the state of Oklahoma.”

Kirby’s former legislative assistant and her attorneys were paid $44,500 to settle her complaint that she was fired in November 2015 without an explanation in retaliation for reporting the alleged harassment.

Representative Dan Kirby was not a party to the settlement negotiation, nor was he even aware of it,” according to a statement by attorney Courtney Warmington, who said it was approved by then-House Speaker Jeff Hickman and House leaders and that there was no admission of wrongdoing.

The settlement came to light after The Oklahoman reported earlier this week that online records showed the woman accepted a more than $28,000 payment and her attorneys accepted more than $16,000. The payments were made Nov. 22.

Hickman said he approved the deal to save on the potential costs of litigation.

“We saved tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees,” Hickman said. “It would have cost this House a lot more money,” if the matter had gone to court.

Hickman said he did not know why the woman was fired.

Kirby, first elected in 2008 and re-elected in November, did not return a phone call Friday night seeking comment.

“I want to say what a privilege it has been to represent the people of District 75,” he told McCall in the letter. “I have always sought to do everything I can to serve the people of the district and the state in the best manner possible.”

He said he’s honored to have served in the House the past eight years. “However it is now best for all concerned if I step aside,” he said.

Earlier Friday, House Democratic leader Rep. Scott Inman demanded an independent investigation into the matter and for Kirby to repay the money.

“We were shocked and appalled,” by the allegations, Inman said. But he did not call for Kirby to resign.

“We’re not, at this point, because we want to see what the full investigation details,” Inman said. “We’re going to withhold judgment as to what punishment should befall Rep. Kirby until we have all the facts.”

Inman also said he is sending incoming Speaker McCall a letter asking 21 questions about the matter, including when the alleged harassment took place, whether there was an investigation, whether the matter was submitted to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission and whether there have been other allegations of harassment by House staff against current or former House members in the past 12 years.

“In a building this large, it wouldn’t be surprising if something like that had happened before, but we have not been informed of any such incident like that,” Hickman said.

Hickman said he believes the matter was resolved correctly.

“In terms of this investigation I had with this issue, it was handled appropriately,” Hickman said.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Graczyk in Houston contributed to this story.


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