Prineville State Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson said when she asked Rep. Brad Witt of Clatskanie to support a bill of hers, he returned by offering an inappropriate “quid pro quo” arrangement.
“I asked for a yes vote,” Breese Iverson said. “He responded with some questions. I responded to his questions. He interjected with, going out for a beer, going out for dinner, dot dot dot. I continued to ignore those and just give the answers to the questions he had asked, and the last text that came through was just unacceptable.”
After consulting with a colleague, Breese Iverson filed a complaint about the text with the Legislative Equity Office under Rule 27, the legislature’s rule that addresses harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
She also asked that House Speaker Tina Kotek remove Witt from the role of chair on a committee Breese Iverson is vice-chair of.
Breese Iverson said she thought the request was warranted because, within that committee, she often has to ask Witt for approval on things like paperwork and scheduling hearings.
“I just felt it entirely inappropriate given the recent history of what I received from him in that text message then had to be put in a position where I had to ask for permission from that same person,” Breese Iverson said.
On Friday, at a House Conduct Committee hearing, an independent investigator agreed Witt should be removed as chair and a no contact order should be in place between the Breese Iverson and Witt.
But the committee said removing Witt from the position was unnecessary.
“I do feel like there was a lack of concern for the process and for me coming forward as the complainant,” Breese Iverson said.
Breese Iverson said not removing Witt from the chair position, as well as not removing him from several other committees they work together on, goes against the purpose of Rule 27.
“Rule 27 was put into play to protect the folks that are willing to come forward,” Breese Iverson said. “Giving the results of the committee on Friday to not follow the investigator’s recommendation minimizes that whole process.”
Witt ultimately was removed from committee chair by Kotek on Monday. Witt declined to comment for today’s story, saying he doesn’t want to interfere with the investigation.
Because Breese Iverson is a republican and Witt is a democrat, Breese Iverson said she believes the hearing on Friday turned political. But the situation should be about conduct, not political affiliation, she said.
“The process has some flaws and we need to do better in that,” Breese Iverson said. “I expect my colleagues on the democrat side and on the republican side to be real about this and not make it a partisan issue. Make it a real issue. This really happened. This happened as an, ‘I’ll give you a yes vote if you do this.’ That’s unacceptable.”
While she hopes her experience inspires change within the legislature conduct process, she also hopes her coming forward inspires others who find themselves in a similar position.
“There are people out there who are in similar situations who aren’t in a position to speak out,” Breese Iverson said. “I do want to represent those people. I want other ladies in a position such as what I’m in to know that it’s ok to come forward.”
The investigation into the complaint is expected to be finished in April.