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Kotek: Senator accused of sexual impropriety should resign

Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, is under investigation for alleged unwanted touching of female legislators.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said Monday that Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Roseburg Republican accused of inappropriately touching female legislators, should resign.SALEM — House Speaker Tina Kotek said Monday State Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Roseburg Republican accused of sexual impropriety, should resign.

"I personally think he should (resign), but I'll let the process run out," Kotek said.

The investigation into those allegations will wrap up soon, according to legislative leadership.

Kotek is the highest-ranking member of the Legislature who has said she believes he should resign.

Two sitting Democratic lawmakers — Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, of Beaverton, and Sen. Sara Gelser, of Corvallis — have formally accused Kruse of unwanted touching.

Gelser made the first public allegation of inappropriate touching by Kruse in late October, followed by Steiner Hayward. An outside investigator is looking into the allegations.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, and leadership in both parties in the Senate were fairly mum on the issue last week, instead saying that they believe the outside investigation should run its course.

House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, said in a statement in November that the Legislature was "committed to changing a toxic culture but that cannot happen while Sen. Kruse remains."

The impending conclusion of the report does not mean the end of the process, however.

The Senate Committee on Conduct has to review the report and make a recommendation as to whether the Senate should discipline Kruse.

Kotek also said that she thinks that the Oregon Legislature ought to reassess the formal complaint and investigation process.

Although the way Oregon handles formal complaints is being upheld as a national model — as state legislatures across the country deal with allegations of improper conduct by members as part of the rising tide of the #MeToo movement — Kotek said she thought it was "clunky."

However, it's also the first time, at least in recent memory, that the formal process for harassment complaints has been used.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said in a press conference last week that he thought that issues surrounding the Kruse investigation could "dominate" the short legislative session, which began Monday and can last up to 35 days.

Back when the allegations emerged in October, Courtney relieved Kruse of his committee assignments and removed the senator's office door, due to simultaneous allegations that Kruse had been smoking inside the Oregon State Capitol building.

Kruse declined a request for comment from the EO/Pamplin Capital Bureau on Monday.

Paris Achen contributed reporting.