HARRISBURG – Leaders of the House Republican Caucus issued the following statement regarding recommendations issued after a grand jury investigation into a former member.
“The House Republican Caucus has not wavered in its zero-tolerance policy toward any instance of sexual abuse or harassment. As is shown by this example, we took swift action against our former member and fully cooperated with any request from law enforcement.
“Our House rules regarding sexual harassment, written and adopted by both House Republicans and Democrats on Jan. 1, reflect the gravity of these cases. Those rules, including expulsion proceedings, would apply to any complaints against current members. The rules were developed by both Republican and Democratic staff and attorneys after extensive review of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission best practices. The rules are always available online for the public to see and in many cases already meet or exceed the recommendations of the grand jury:
• The grand jury recommends an independent, centralized office with subpoena power to investigate alleged misconduct.
o The House Committee on Ethics holds these powers. It acts independently, equally bipartisan and free of House or caucus leadership, to investigate claims of sexual harassment against House members and House officers. The committee has subpoena power and can recommend censure, expulsion or the denial of other privileges granted to members.
• The grand jury believes confidentiality is paramount in any investigation and any interference in an investigation should constitute a criminal offense.
o Confidentially is clearly stated in the processes of the adopted rules. Protecting the identity of the victim is enshrined in the rules. Additionally, the rules state the victim and any witnesses are protected from any retaliation.
• The grand jury recommends if an allegation could carry criminal liability, the Legislature should immediately refer cases to law enforcement.
o Our caucus has not hesitated in contacting law enforcement at the first sign of criminal wrongdoing and has participated in any relevant criminal investigation as our own internal investigative processes play out. This is specifically explained in the Ethics Committee rules.
The grand jury report states a clear definition of sexual harassment is not available to staff or members. This is incorrect. A definition of sexual harassment is available in Rule 1E of the House Rules.
Further, last year the House adopted House Resolution 829
, which directed the Joint State Government Commission to bring to light instances and accusations of wrongdoing related to sexual harassment throughout state government. The commission’s final report showed issues stretching far beyond the Legislature. We continue to work on addressing these issues that impact far too many people across all of state government.
We recognize more can be done to empower victims to come forward and ensure perpetrators are held accountable. Members from both sides of the aisle have offered proposed changes to our House Rules, including, but not limited to, expanding the scope of sexual harassment rules to cover circumstances related directly to the accused’s office or employment. This idea, and others, are being discussed and examined by relevant committees and members.
Our caucus remains committed to providing a workplace free from all forms of harassment and will continue to work hard to achieve that goal. We offer these comments because we take any and all instances of harassment seriously and are disappointed the gravity of our actions to address the problem was not properly explained to the grand jury. House Republicans have made significant improvements in recent years to address how accusations are investigated and continue to stand behind our actions to do everything in our power to eliminate sexual harassment and abuse.”
House Republican Leaders
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Mike Straub