Sen. Jeff Kruse, the subject of a damning sexual harassment investigation, likely will not return to the Oregon Capitol before he leaves office, an official said Friday.
Kruse — a Roseburg Republican whose district includes a portion of northeast Jackson County — tendered a resignation Thursday that doesn't take effect until after the remaining four weeks of this year's legislative session are over. That raised the prospect he would continue to interact with female colleagues and staffers at the Capitol. Not so.
"Our understanding is that he will not be in the building, nor will he be attending (Senate) floor sessions," Tayleranne Gillespie, spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans, told The Oregonian/OregonLive Friday.
Still, lawmakers have work to do to make the Capitol a more hospitable workplace for women, said Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, one of many women an investigator concluded Kruse touched inappropriately.
Kruse announced his resignation days after the publication of the damaging report concluded he had sexually harassed or groped many women at the Capitol, including four lawmakers. The investigation was sparked by formal written complaints from Gelser and Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland.
The delay in the effectiveness of Kruse's resignation lets the officeholder for 22 years collect his lawmaker's salary while sitting out the legislative session at home.
The day before he announced he'd quit, Kruse was adamant that he would not resign. However, he agreed to stay away from the Capitol until the date of a hearing on the sexual harassment investigation, planned for later this month. Kruse came back to the building Thursday, however, to submit his resignation papers and collect some personal items from his office.
It's unclear if the Senate Conduct Committee will still convene a hearing to assess the investigation and possibly recommend the full Senate discipline Kruse. Beaverton Democrat Sen. Mark Hass, the committee chairman, did not return a request for information about the committee's meeting scheduled for Feb. 22. As of late Friday afternoon, the four-member panel was still scheduled to meet on that date.
Though he'll have no official duties for the rest of the legislative session, Kruse, 66, will collect his legislative pay of $1,964 per month and a $142 per day allowance given to all lawmakers.
Once his resignation takes effect, the commissioners of Curry, Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties, which Kruse's district overlaps, will appoint his replacement from nominees selected by local representatives of the Republican Party.
Gelser, the Corvallis Democrat who formally accused Kruse of inappropriate touching, said Capitol officials must do more to make the building a safe workplace. In an interview Thursday, she said the system for handling reports of sexual harassment is too slow to respond and does not ensure good outcomes for accusers.
Gelser and Steiner Hayward first reported Kruse's unwanted touching to legislative legal and human resources officials nearly two years ago.
"My issue is let's have a safe workplace. Let's fix this process," Gelser said. She added, "We have so much work to do."
Accusations against Kruse first went public in October, after women from all walks of life began to speak up about sexual harassment as part of the #MeToo movement. Sexual misconduct allegations have been made against 41 state officials, and Kruse is the 12th nationwide to announce he is resigning because of them, according to Ballotpedia.org, a website that tracks American politics.