Allegations of harassment of PA lawmakers known in 2019 Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — House Democrats of Pennsylvania say the caucuses were aware of sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Admitting for the first time, the lawmaker announced his resignation. .

Two sources told Spotlight PA that lawmakers, including then-state House Majority Leader Frank Darmody (D, Allegheny), were contacted by lobbyists who said Zebel inappropriately caressed her. received.

Lobbyist Andy Perez recently made her story public for the first time. She also stepped forward with three others, including two incumbent Republican lawmakers. Have Zabel announce his resignation.

A Democratic spokesperson for the state House of Representatives initially declined to answer questions about what leadership knew in 2019.

“He was immediately instructed to [Dermody] Treatment is available through the State Employee Assistance Program (SEAP),” the spokesperson said. SEAP, according to its website, “provides services related to substance abuse, mental health issues, family issues, financial matters, legal services, and mediation.”

“He was also required to complete Caucus training on harassment, discrimination and retaliation training and power dynamics one-on-one with outside legal counsel,” a spokesperson said.

Zabel declined to comment on this allegation.In a letter to Democratic leadership earlier this month, he already being treated for an unnamed diseaseHe refused to answer questions about the nature of his illness or treatment.

On March 1, shortly after Perez nominated Zebel for the first time, Democratic leaders in the state House of Representatives, including new Speaker Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia), said in a statement, “We are concerned about the allegations we learned today. there are,” he said.

They didn’t call for Zabel’s resignation, as some Democrats and Republican leaders have done.

After saying he wouldn’t step down, Zebel said this week state legislator Abbey Major (R. Armstrong) said Zebel put his arms around her, proposed to her, and followed her to her car. He announced his resignation shortly after. November 2022.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the state House of Representatives Democratic Party said, “Recently, rumors have been circulating about Rep. Zabel’s actions ahead of a personal account released last week.”

“Due to these persistent rumors, and based on previously implemented remedial actions, the concerns shared have been addressed directly with Rep. Zabel,” the spokesperson continued. However, the leadership has discussed with Senator Zabel that such behavior is unacceptable and that there is support available to him if he needs it.”

In addition to Darmody, two sources told Spotlight PA that state legislator Rian Kruger, D., of Delaware, was made aware of the alleged incident involving Perez shortly after it occurred. it was done. Kruger is chairman of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee and provides support and financial support to candidates.

Krueger declined to comment when contacted by Spotlight PA. Darmody, who lost his 2020 re-election bid, did not respond to a request for comment.

Harrisburg has been plagued by scandals since the fall of 2017, with high-profile accusations of sexual harassment and assault, but few institutional reforms to back them up.

In 2018, two women, including a fellow state representative, defendant Then-Rep. Nick Michaelelli (R-Delaware) sexually and physically assaulted them.miccarelli rejected petition.

An investigation by the State Legislature found that the allegations were: reliableaccording to an excerpt released by one of the female attorneys.

Commonwealth Media Service

Two sources told Spotlight PA that lawmakers, including then-state House Majority Leader Frank Darmody (D, Allegheny), were contacted by lobbyists who said Zebel inappropriately caressed her. received.

Republican leaders and several Democrats called for his resignation, but Miccarelli chose to complete his term.

During this time, Kruger became a major voice on the issue, defending MP Thaler Toohill (Republican, Lucerne), the MP who accused Micarelli of wrongdoing.

she and twohill introduced A 2018 bipartisan bill creating an independent compliance office to receive, investigate, and resolve sexual harassment complaints within the state legislature.

The bill was referred to a committee controlled by State Rep. Rob Kaufman (Republican, Franklin). Instead of voting to change policy, Kaufman’s commission advanced a resolution to study sexual harassment in state government — A decision some Democrats denounced as an effort to stall real reform.

of study Released after a year, he was found to have 24 counts of sexual harassment, general harassment, or a “hostile work environment” on the state legislature between 2013 and 2018. The rest led to counseling, suspension, termination, or other disciplinary action.

The state House of Representatives added a rule in January 2019 specifically prohibiting sexual harassment by lawmakers, but it only allowed fellow lawmakers and congressional employees to file complaints with the Ethics Commission.

“The problem is clear: our elected representatives are always working for the people of the Commonwealth during their tenure,” said Shay Rose, a Villanova University law professor who specializes in sexual violence. I am writing to 2019 report“So it makes little sense to draw a clear distinction between sexual misconduct at work and sexual misconduct elsewhere.”

In 2022, Republican lawmakers will introduce a bill that Perez privately endorsed, extend the rule Allowed more people to lodge complaints against lawmakers, but was not adopted. Both major parties blamed each other for their lack of action.

Democratic leaders said Chamber rules adopted earlier this year Cover lobbyists like Perez. However, the policy has not yet been tested, and some Republicans have expressed doubt that it will be as widespread and effective as promised.

new rule No legislator shall engage in discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment, against another legislator or “any individual while performing the services or duties of the House.” In or on House-designated offices, property or facilities. Or at a House-sponsored meeting or event. “

Democrats said the rule was written to cover individuals harassed by lawmakers in the three scenarios presented. Republicans say that due to how the rules are written, lawmakers are prohibited from harassing individuals only at official events or while conducting state business on the Capitol. claims.

Rhodes reviewed the wording and told Spotlight PA that he believes most individuals who have been harassed by lawmakers will be able to file complaints under the new rules.

“If you don’t mean to argue about semicolons and ores, I think these rules, in fact, if properly implemented, can provide the heretofore lacking due process,” Rhodes said.

On March 1, state House Democratic spokesperson Nicole Reigelman said an ethics committee would be formed the next day. but not formally organized.

The committee will formally form on March 16th. On the same day, Zabel said he was resigning. Reigelman said the commission has already received complaints and Democrats plan to create a website that outlines the commission’s “process for collecting and investigating reports of discrimination and harassment.”

Major was told by a member of the committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, that the committee had not yet received any complaints.

Earlier this month, Perez said she had not yet decided whether to file a complaint under the new rules, but said she would stand by it in writing. However, he expressed concern that individuals harassed outside the Capitol would still face difficulties in bringing cases to the committee.

“If this is actually handled [Perez] If we had reported it first, these incidents wouldn’t have happened,” she told Spotlight PA. “Four years from now, it won’t be an ongoing problem.”

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