State to pay $290 per hour for internal investigation

State Sen. Jeff Kruse has had multiple fellow state senators accuse him of sexual harassment

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem, May 4, 2017 (KOIN)
The Oregon State Capitol in Salem, May 4, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon legislature will pay a Lake Oswego employment attorney $290 per hour to investigate work environment concerns within the state’s legislative assembly, KOIN 6 News has learned.

The state, acting through the Office of the Legislative Administrator, signed a contract with Dian Rubanoff of Pack, Rubanoff and Hatfield on Nov. 26 that will last until March 15, 2018. The contract can be extended into April. The maximum Rubanoff can be paid is $50,000.

Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser is part of TIME Magazine's Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers. (KOIN)
Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser is part of TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers. (KOIN)

The agreement comes after Republican State Sen. Jeff Kruse (Roseburg) was stripped of his committee assignments because of ongoing work issues. State Sen. Sara Gesler (Corvallis), who on Wednesday was one of the “Silence Breakers” Time Magazine recognized as 2017 Person of the Year, filed a formal complaint against Kruse on Nov. 15. She said he harassed 15 women. She also demanded Kruse be expelled from the state legislature.

Kruse “categorically” denied Gesler’s original allegations on Oct. 20, which came less than a month before her formal complaint.

Gesler, who was a major part of the #MeToo movement, told KOIN 6 News on Wednesday she hopes the Time Magazine attention sparks more change in the workplace.

“This issue for me isn’t about the experience I had,” Gelser told KOIN 6 News. “It’s about the culture in my workplace, it’s about the fact that sexual harassment is not a partisan issue. It’s a workplace issue and it’s something we have the power to change.

“The stories I have heard from women over the past 2 months about their experiences in the Capitol and activities associated with it are so disheartening. I want those women and some men to be able to see change at the end of all this.”

State Senator Jeff Kruse (JEFF KRUSE/FACEBOOK.COM)

Gesler isn’t the only person in the state legislature to allege sexual harassment against Kruse. State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward (Portland) filed a formal complaint against Kruse on Nov. 22. Steiner-Hayward said Kruse “hugged her too close and for too long, put his hand on her thigh and sat so close their legs touched,” according to The Associated Press.

The contract the state signed with Rubanoff doesn’t name Kruse or the allegations against him, but it does cite the need to investigate “facts alleged and issues raised by personnel concerning the work environment and the actions and conduct of certain persons within the Legislative Assembly.”

“The office has had information about workplace conduct concerns that involve members of the Legislative Assembly and for which independent investigation is required.”

You can read the full contract agreement below.