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State senator suspended from Democratic-sponsored events after sexual harassment allegations by intern

Posted at 9:13 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 10:36:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A former intern for Utah State Senator Gene Davis who went on to work as a paid staffer on his primary campaign claims she was sexually harassed by him, and took to social media to share her story.

After the post was published on Instagram on Wednesday, Senator Davis was temporarily suspended from all Salt Lake County Democratic Party events, committees, and party-related activity.

In her detailed post, she said she had heard of past allegations from other former staffers against Davis, but talked herself out of her concerns for the opportunity to work at the Capitol.

"I feel like my experience at the Utah Capitol was stolen away from me," she wrote in her post. "I did not deserve this. This should've never happened to me."

In her Instagram post, she also claimed he often invaded physical boundaries, putting his arm around her waist and playing with her toes.

She says once she was on the campaign team, she was working with him when he asked to wipe dirt off her behind.

She said she told him no twice, but he did it anyway. She claims she was in shock and reported it to the campaign manager.

The young woman also expressed anger at the Utah Democratic Party for not protecting women better and not investigating sexual misconduct claims thoroughly.

Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chair Eva Lopez released this statement in response to the allegations:

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party does not tolerate any impermissible behavior, sexual misconduct of any nature, physical or verbal violence, and all violations that perpetuate unsafe environments. No one should be fearful to participate in our Party, especially to be an intern to a long-standing Senator.

A spokesperson for the Utah Democratic Party also sent a statement to FOX 13 News saying, in part, that "the party takes claims of sexual harassment very seriously."

They also stated that they have not “received any official complaints in regards to the individual in question."

Chairman Lopez said of the post, "My initial reaction was disgust, it’s stomach pain. Honestly it’s empathy as someone who also has been in a similar situation.

"Sadly it’s a situation all too common in the campaign world, in the political world."

FOX 13 reached out to Senator Davis but has not heard back.

Senator Davis worked in the legislature for over 30 years but lost his primary election, so will not be returning next session.

President J. Stuart Adams of the Utah State Senate initiated an independent investigation into the allegations and released a statement in response.

"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," the statement reads. “The Senate condemns and does not tolerate workplace harassment. It has no place in any political, professional or personal setting.”

In addition, Senate minority leadership, Sen. Karen Mayne, Sen. Luz Escamilla and Sen. Jani Iwamoto issued a statement saying they support the investigation.

"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," their statement reads. "We support an independent investigation to move forward immediately and will examine all options. 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."

The full statement of the Utah Democratic Party is as follows:

The Utah Democratic Party takes claims of sexual harassment very seriously. Since our comprehensive anti-harassment policy was implemented in 2019, the party has engaged in balanced and thorough investigations whenever claims have been made, and perpetrators who have been found guilty have been officially disciplined and even expelled from the party. 

To be clear, the Utah Democratic Party does not have any involvement in facilitating legislative internships, which are run entirely through programs at individual universities in coordination with the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. 

Additionally, to date, the party has not received any official complaints in regards to the individual in question. Due to the nature of our party’s governing documents, we cannot investigate claims without an official request for the Judicial Committee to launch an inquiry. Should such a complaint be officially made to the party, we will follow the process outlined in our Anti-Harassment Policies and Procedures to fully investigate the claims.

Everyone should feel safe from sexual harassment, and that is why we believe a fair and thorough process for investigating these claims is so important."