SALEM, Ore. — An investigator hired by the Oregon Legislature has concluded that Democrat Rep. Brad Witt, of Clatskanie, did not intend to tell a colleague that he would vote for her bill in exchange for sexual favors.
However, the investigator did find that Republican Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, of Prineville, “was not unreasonable” to interpret Witt’s text message as sexual harassment, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
According to screenshots of messages sent between them on April 12, Breese-Iverson asked Witt to back her bill that would ease red tape for reservoir owners in her district.
Witt declined, citing his “commitment to sustainability.” Breese-Iverson continued to push for his support, and at one point Witt replied, “We probably need to go for a beer sometime.”
Breese-Iverson did not address the beer comment, but continued to advocate for her bill.
Witt responded: “I’m not wedded to beer by any means. Could be dinner or ….?”
“Or what?” Breese-Iverson texted back.
“I’ve made two offerings,” Witt responded. “If you wanna meet, find something better than dinner or beer.”
“Trying to get a vote count,” Breese-Iverson texted in the final message included in the report.
Breese-Iverson that week filed a formal complaint with the Legislature, alleging that Witt’s texts constituted a “quid pro quo,” in which he was seeking sexual favors in exchange for his support of the bill.
The report, posted on the legislature’s website Wednesday, was written by Sarah Ryan, a Portland attorney hired by the Legislative Equity Office.
Ryan wrote that Witt’s text messages were “not invited or welcome, and that Complainant was offended, uncomfortable, shaken and anxious as a result.”
But the investigator doesn’t think Witt was actually offering to trade his vote for a date or sex.
“I also find that respondent did not intend to offer his vote on complainant’s bill, in exchange for a date or sexual favors, or to comment on sexual matters,” she wrote.
The next steps will be discussed in a June 1 meeting of the House Committee on Conduct. In April, the committee discussed but decided against stripping Witt of his position as chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
“I’m gratified that the investigation dealt with the facts at hand and came to a conclusion on that basis,” Witt said in a written statement. “I am looking forward to the final resolution to this matter in the near term and completing the work that lies ahead in this legislative session.”
Breese-Iverson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the newspaper or The Associated Press. The House was meeting in a floor session scheduled to last into Wednesday afternoon.
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