Originally published on June 30, 2018 11:04 am
Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who is facing calls to resign in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, has been named in a new complaint at the state Capitol. The accuser, a man who worked as a non-partisan Senate staffer in 2016, alleges that Baumgardner created an offensive and hostile work environment.
In a formal complaint filed with the Senate on Wednesday (Feb. 21, 2018), the male staffer alleges that Baumgardner repeatedly gave a female staffer unwanted attention throughout the 2016 legislative session.
The male staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said when Baumgardner entered the room where they worked it felt negative and disruptive, and made others uncomfortable and impeded his ability to do his job.
“The female staffer would shake her head and call him ‘creepy and disgusting,’” the male staffer wrote in the complaint. “Bottom line, this became an environment that we all endured. It was a cloud that hung in the air, and at the time we didn’t know what to do about it.”
Under the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy, a person who observes inappropriate behavior can file a complaint even if it didn’t directly happen to them.
The policy states that the General Assembly strives “to create and maintain a work environment in which all members of the General Assembly, legislative employees, and third parties are treated with dignity and respect. Members, legislative employees, and third parties have the right to a workplace that is free from harassment, both subtle and overt.”
The male staffer said he's filing the complaint now because of other people who have come forward at the Capitol with allegations of sexual harassment. The staffer said he was surprised at the extent of the problem. He also believes making his concerns public is the right thing to do to help support those who have faced harassment at the Capitol.
The male staffer alleges that on one occasion he witnessed Baumgardner leering at his colleague’s backside. He also alleges that Baumgardner visited a bar, where the woman held a second job, in an attempt to see the woman.
“That creeped her out,” the male staffer said.
But the woman did not complain formally at the time, the male staffer said.
“I remember having a conversation with her where I clearly told her that she should file a formal complaint if she was feeling threatened or harassed,” the male staffer wrote in the complaint. He said she was reluctant to do so, but didn't tell him why.
Baumgardner is a Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs. A spokesman for Senate Republicans said Baumgardner would not comment on the allegations because he did not yet have confirmation of the complaint being filed and wasn’t aware of the details.
The staffer also alleges that Baumgardner created a hostile environment by making disparaging comments when certain lawmakers spoke at the Senate podium and disdainful comments about bills he didn’t agree with. Staffers are non-partisan in their jobs and are not allowed to weigh in one way or the other on bills. The complainant said Baumgardner's comments made the staff feel uncomfortable and awkward and disrupted their work.
The complaint states: “I would always loudly proclaim, ‘Senator we have no opinion on the matter.’"
This is the third formal complaint filed against Baumgardner.
An investigation into a complaint filed in November sided with Baumgardner’s accuser, a former legislative aide, finding her story credible that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped her buttocks four times in 2016. Baumgardner held a media briefing denying those allegations while also voluntarily stepping down from one of his committee chairmanships and agreeing to receive sensitivity training.
“The allegations made against me in this complaint are not true despite the findings of the investigation,” he said at a press conference to address those allegations on Feb. 13. “I believe it to be flawed, inaccurate, incomplete and biased.”
Senate Democrats responded by calling for Baumgardner’s resignation and drafted a resolution to oust him from office.
Another complaint’s outcome is pending: former intern Megan Creeden filed a complaint against Baumgardner on Feb. 12. She alleges he made an inappropriate sexual comment and pressured her to drink with him in his office.
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