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Senate launches harassment investigation into Sen. Gene Davis

Posted at 8:53 AM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-06 20:49:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Senate has launched an investigation into accusations of sexual harassment against Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.

Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, announced Friday morning he has ordered an independent investigation after a former intern of Sen. Davis' in the 2022 legislative session came forward detailing allegations of sexual harassment.

"Wednesday evening, I learned about the allegations concerning Sen. Davis from an online post made by a former intern. The entire Senate and I take these comments seriously. After reviewing recommendations from the legislative general counsel and human resource administrator, I have directed an independent investigation be initiated to evaluate these allegations," Sen. Adams said in a statement. "The Senate condemns and does not tolerate workplace harassment. It has no place in any political, professional or personal setting."

Sen. Adams' office said he would have no further comment due to the ongoing investigation. Sen. Davis' own caucus said it supported the decision.

"We take the recent allegations against Sen. Davis very seriously and do not tolerate sexual harassment or any form of inappropriate conduct in the workplace. We support an independent investigation to move forward immediately and will examine all options," said a joint statement from Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, and Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay. "Sexual harassment is wholly unacceptable, and while no complaint has been filed, we have confidence in the Legislature’s workplace discrimination and harassment policies and process to support employees and interns."

Sen. Davis has so far not responded to repeated messages seeking comment. The Utah State Senate told FOX 13 News that Sen. Davis has not been stripped of his committee assignments in the legislature. Depending on the results of the independent investigation, the Senate could then launch an ethics investigation into Sen. Davis, which could lead to discipline should the accusations be proven true.

FOX 13 News reported on the intern's accusations on Thursday night. She accused him of unwanted touching and inappropriate behavior. On Thursday night, the Salt Lake County Democratic Party suspended Sen. Davis from party activities, pending its own investigation.

"I invite everybody that has potential knowledge of harassment or discrimination to file a case," Eva Lopez, the party's chair, told FOX 13 News.

Sen. Davis has been one of the longest-serving lawmakers on Utah's Capitol Hill. He has been in office since 1987. This year, he lost a primary election to Nate Blouin.

In a text message to FOX 13 News, Blouin said he supported the investigation launched by the Senate and said he believed the young woman who stepped forward.

"We have to confront uncomfortable truths, even when it is not politically convenient to do so. Opening an investigation is the right thing to do, and it must be conducted in a way that gives other victims confidence that their stories will be taken seriously," he said.

Sen. Davis has also faced accusations of inappropriate behavior with women in the past. Last year, he issued a statement of apology to a former Capitol Hill staffer who accused him of misconduct.

The Executive Committee of the Utah Democratic Party issued a statement Saturday, which read:

“We would like to publicly state our support for the Senate’s independent investigation into accusations against Sen. Gene Davis. We support victims of sexual misconduct and we encourage them to move their complaints forward to all relevant entities.

"Additionally, we recognize and honor how difficult it is for victims of sexual harassment to come forward, and we are actively seeking ways that we can add access, inclusion, and safety to our own process to make it as easy as possible for victims to share their stories and have their concerns taken seriously.”