OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, on Friday acted upon the recommendations of the House Special Investigation Committee to expand annual sexual harassment training for Oklahoma House of Representatives members and employees.
The Committee released its findings publicly Thursday, Feb. 2, recommending Speaker McCall specifically:
· Require the House to expand yearly sexual harassment and reporting training for both members and employees of the House;
· Establish written procedures to ensure members and employees are better educated on the proper chain of command and authority between the House and its employees; and,
· Require members to sign and update the Anti-Nepotism/Anti-Fraternization Affirmation form every elected term.
Release of the bipartisan Special Investigation Committee’s report came after a month-long probe of circumstances that led to a wrongful termination settlement agreement paid to a former employee in November out of House funds. The Investigation Committee recommended the expulsion of state Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, from the House.
The Committee also recommended that Rep. Will Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, attend sensitivity training and be prohibited from interacting with the House Page Program for one year.
Regarding Kirby, the panel recommended his:
· Expulsion from the House of Representatives,
· Loss of Committee Chairmanship,
· Loss of Committee appointments,
· Bills authored removed from consideration,
· Loss of privileges to a legislative assistant,
Expulsion requires the support of 68 members.
The following recommendations emerged regarding Rep. Fourkiller:
· Attend one-on-one sensitivity training on appropriate workplace conduct,
· Prohibited from contact with the House Page Program for one year (though Rep. Fourkiller will still be allowed to host student pages from his district in his Capitol office.)
“This has been a difficult process, and I am thankful for the members of the Committee who participated and meticulously investigated this matter,” said Committee Chairman Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, the committee chairman.
“This was a bipartisan effort, and every member who participated took this matter seriously and received all of the evidence with an open mind. It was a fair and thorough investigation, and the members of the Committee believe our recommendations are appropriate.”
In addition, the Committee found that the House has the legal authority – and acted upon that authority – to expend operational funds to settle the wrongful termination claim brought by a former employee.
The Committee also recommended that the Speaker establish a bipartisan committee of members to review and vote on any future legal settlements that may arise.
Speaker McCall created a bipartisan House Expenditure Oversight Committee and authorizing it to review and authorize all large capital and/or extraordinary expenditures that exceed $15,000.
The full House will consider the Committee’s recommendations after the start of the the 2017 session on Monday, February 6.
Rep. Kirby on Thursday evening released a statement saying, “I am very disheartened and disappointed by the recommendations released by the committee today. I do feel that the committee’s recommendations are far more severe than necessary. Unfortunately, I was not given the committee report, any evidence, any accusation, or any other material in relation to the report prior to the media receiving that information during the press conference today. Because of that, my advisors and I have not been able to review the material to offer a complete public statement at this time. I assure the people of Oklahoma, my colleagues, and my constituents that I will speak publicly about the report and the committee’s findings as soon as I have had time to review it myself most likely in the next couple days.”
Through early Saturday morning, Feb. 5, Kirby had not issued additional comments.
In January, Speaker McCall suspended Kirby’s chairmanship of the House Business, Commerce & Tourism Committee pending the findings and recommendations of the Investigation Committee. He acted after the Tulsa Republican had initially announced he would not testify before the Investigation Committee. publicly announced his intent to refuse to testify before the Committee.