SALEM— Senate President Peter Courtney’s Office confirmed Wednesday that the two most recent accusations of unwanted touching by Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse came from two separate senators.
“This week, I was made aware that your behavior toward women in the workplace has gone unchanged,” Courtney wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to Kruse. “Two new incidents were brought to my attention.”
The letter did not detail whether the accusations came from one or two women, their positions, or specifics of what Kruse allegedly did.
However, Courtney’s letter came four days after Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, sent out a cryptic tweet in which she asked a Republican Senate staffer if he would ensure members of his caucus don’t touch or grope female lawmakers or staff in the Capitol.
She confirmed to The Oregonian Monday that she had been referring to Kruse.
Kruse, a farmer who has represented Roseburg in the Legislature for more than 20 years, has denied the allegations and told the News Review Tuesday he does not plan to resign.
Gelser made an informal complaint that Kruse had touched her inappropriately in March 2016. At that time, Courtney followed protocol and reported the allegation to Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson and Employee Services Manager Lore Christopher. Johnson and Christopher warned Kruse to stop touching women at work, Courtney’s letter stated.
Courtney also reported the latest allegations by the two senators — referenced in his letter — to Legislative Counsel and Employee Services. Those offices are conducting a fact-finding inquiry, as reported Tuesday by the Pamplin/EO Capital Bureau.
Before the outcome of that probe, Courtney imposed “unprecedented” sanctions against the senator, according to his letter. Kruse was stripped of his assignments on Senate committees on education, the judiciary and health care and on the newly created Task Force on Health Care Cost Review. The sanction effectively weakens his ability to shape legislation that goes up for a vote on the Senate floor.
Courtney also ordered that the door to Kruse’s Senate office be removed on Friday.
The identity of the second senator who has accused Kruse is unclear. Phone calls made to Sens. Betsy Johnson, Laurie Monnes Anderson, Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, Kathleen Taylor and Kim Thatcher went unreturned Wednesday.
Former Republican Sen. Chris Telfer, who served with Kruse from 2009-2013, said she was surprised to hear the accusations against Kruse.
“I never saw it, I never heard it, I never even had a sense of it,” Telfer said Wednesday.
“It’s not the Jeff I know.”