Oregon lawmaker faces expulsion after harassment reports

This is the first time the House has ever voted on whether to expel a member.

Posted: Feb 6, 2021 5:35 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. — In a historic move, Oregon lawmakers recommended the House vote to expel Rep. Diego Hernandez on Friday.

The House Committee on Conduct made the unanimous recommendation following a week of hearings into Hernandez's conduct. They concluded that Hernandez, on multiple occasions, created an intimidating and hostile work environment for women at the Capitol. Committee co-chair Rep. Julie Fehey (D-Eugene) thanked the women for their courage in coming forward.

"It's because of all of you that we are sitting here today in this possession to take a stand against this type of behavior," said Fahey, "and to hold Representative Hernandez accountable and to send a strong message to the Capitol community that this will not be tolerated."

In the middle of a briefing being televised and streamed live around the state about COVID-19 Friday morning, Gov. Kate Brown made an unusual pivot to an unrelated topic, calling for the resignation of Rep. Hernandez.

"The women who came forward and shared their stories are courageous and brave," Gov. Brown said, adding, "Let me be very clear. If this were any other workplace, Rep. Hernandez would have already been shown the door.

Now, it's up to the House to decide.

"While the legislative process will proceed to address findings, quite simply his behavior is unacceptable for anyone -- never mind an elected official. He should resign immediately," Brown said.

Twenty-six Democrats from the state House and Senate Pres. Peter Courtney also released statements, agreeing with Gov. Brown that Rep. Hernandez should resign.

It was not immediately clear when a vote might happen. The next House floor session is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9. Two-thirds of the House would have to vote to expel Rep. Hernandez from his seat.

One of his accusers told the conduct committee she initially wanted to remain anonymous but decided to speak out after watching Rep. Hernandez, over the course of the nine-month investigation, release multiple statements to the media.

"He's said dating when you're young is hard,” she said, quoting a statement the representative issued. "No other dating experience lead me to hide in my closet."

Rep. Hernandez has not appeared in person, but his attorney read a statement on his behalf Monday.

"Please let me unequivocally say that I'm very sorry that I made anyone uncomfortable," said Kevin Lafky, reading Rep. Hernandez’s statement. "Many have read the report without having had the benefit of my response … Many have judged my conduct without knowing the facts."

In that statement, Hernandez said he had submitted a 40-page rebuttal to the committee. It’s unclear if lawmakers have access to that document.

The woman who testified Tuesday, known as "subject one," is one of three women who work at the Capitol who said Hernandez created a hostile work environment or made them believe their careers were in jeopardy.

The conduct committee voted Rep. Hernandez created a hostile work environment for "subject one" six times, including an instance when he showed up at her apartment unannounced, prompting her to hide in the closet. There were also times Rep. Hernandez left flowers on her car at the Capitol or sent anonymous gifts to her home.

This is the first time the House has ever voted on whether to expel a member.

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