Legislature’s Sexual Harassment Policy Found Inadequate

Montana's effort takes place as legislatures nationwide look at the issue of sexual misconduct

By Associated Press

POLSON – The Montana Legislature’s sexual harassment policies and training are inadequate, staffers with the Legislative Services Division told lawmakers.

Legal Division director Todd Everts said Thursday the current policy does not make it clear who should receive and investigate reports of sexual misconduct, who should determine the consequences or who has the authority to impose any penalties.

“That needs to be articulated,” Everts told members of the Legislative Council during their meeting in Polson.

Susan Fox, executive director of the Legislative Services Division, said more training is needed to ensure everyone has the same understanding of what constitutes sexual misconduct.

“We all have different cultures and are coming from different places,” Fox said. “We need to train people to get them on the same page from the beginning … then everyone has a path where they can register a complaint and have appropriate actions taken, and we have a positive environment as an institution.”

Montana’s effort takes place as legislatures nationwide look at the issue of sexual misconduct.

Since the start of 2017, sexual misconduct or harassment allegations have led to the resignation or expulsion of at least 19 state lawmakers across the country, according to an ongoing Associated Press tally. Another 20 state lawmakers have faced repercussions, such as losing leadership positions. Complaints are pending against several others.

Republican Sen. Fred Thomas of Hamilton along with Democratic lawmakers Rep. Jenny Eck of Helena and Sen. Tom Facey of Missoula, agreed to work with Everts and Fox to review and update Montana’s policy, the Missoulian reports .

The Legislative Council will discuss their recommendations at its next meeting in May.

The subcommittee also will consider recommendations for sexual harassment training for lobbyists.

“One suggestion is to make it part of the registration process,” said Jeff Mangan, Montana’s commissioner of political practices.

He also questioned what the penalty might be for a lobbyist found to have sexually harassed someone at the Capitol.

“When you (reconvene), we can have a couple different options for you to consider,” he said.

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