A former Kansas Legislature staff member is alleging sexual harassment under the Dome. Abbie Hodgson told the Hill she was the victim of inappropriate conduct by legislators when she worked for the Kansas House Democratic Caucus. The Kansas City Star picked up the story, publishing an exposé hours after the Hill story hit the web.
Hodgson says one legislator asked her for sex and was surprised when she said no and that lawmakers were using underage interns as designated drivers at social gatherings. When she told her boss, former House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs and other House leaders, she was told nothing would be done about it. She quit.
Burroughs told the Hill that there are no formal procedures to deal with those allegations, but that he put a stop to interns driving lawmakers around after hours once he learned that was happening.
“Allegations were brought to our attention over the years, yes,” Burroughs said in an interview. “Although there’s no formal procedures when allegations of that type come forward, these are issues I take very seriously.”
There is a formal procedure to deal with sexual harassment claims, however. Legislative staff can file a claim with their boss or with the head of Legislative Administrative Services, Tom Day. The Star reported that Day, who took that role in 2015, has investigated one formal complaint of sexual harassment.
In the Star story, a former Planned Parenthood lobbyist also alleges uncomfortably long hugs given her by some lawmakers.
No allegations against Republicans are included in the Star article, but Republican House Majority Leader Don Hineman said they investigate and handle complaints discreetly “to ensure that those who come forward are not subject to further exposure or harassment and to allow a fair and just process in investigating relevant facts.”
The Star’s Bryan Lowry on Twitter says he’s been working on a story about sexual harassment in the statehouse for more than a year, but couldn’t get anyone on record.
— Bryan Lowry (@BryanLowry3) October 26, 2017
Meanwhile, the Lawrence Journal-World’s Peter Hancock sent emails to female lawmakers with a questionnaire about unwanted sexual advances in the statehouse.
“No names will be associated with them,” Hancock writes. “At the bottom, however, there is room for you to share your personal story in your own words. There, you have the option of being anonymous or named.”