Oregon legislator hears bullying accusation against government candidate

SALEM, Oregon (AP) β€” A former congressman told a committee of the Oregon House of Representatives on Wednesday that he was bullied to the point that he suffered from PTSD by Tina Kotek, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and then-Speaker of the House.

The hearing, which was held remotely via video, was emotional, with another former congressman testifying that petitioner, former Congressman Diego Hernandez, recently attempted suicide.

β€œHe called me,” former Congressman Brian Clem said, pausing as he tried to calm himself down. “I went to his house. This was about a month ago. He had a broken belt. Luckily if the belt hadn’t broken, he wouldn’t be here.” .”

The drama follows Portland progressive Kotek, the longest-serving Speaker of the House in Oregon’s history, embroiled in a bitter gubernatorial battle with Republican candidate Christine Drazan. , and independent candidate Betsey Johnson is also on the ballot, making competition tougher in this blue state this year.

Kotek accused Hernandez of deflecting.

“Rep. Hernandez filed this baseless complaint just days after an independent investigator concluded that she created a work environment hostile to women at the Oregon State Capitol,” Kotek wrote to the commission.

Hernandez, once considered a young and up-and-coming political star, filed a complaint against Kotec in early 2021, claiming that Kotec had created a hostile work environment for him during the 2019 legislative session. However, an independent investigation conducted by a private attorney hired by Congress exonerated Kotek.

“The evidence is insufficient to substantiate Hernandez’s allegations,” investigator Melissa Healy, an attorney with the Portland office, wrote to her. draft.

In an October 3 message to the commission, Mr Kotek said the report “has been overdue for a long time, but I am pleased with the clear conclusion that these were baseless accusations.” said.

Hernandez told the committee that Kotek was angered by his bill to provide driver licenses to Oregonians who entered the United States illegally, unless Kotek backed another bill that would cut retirement benefits for state employees. said he threatened to

“Given all the shit the chairman said and did, the line that was crossed was when she threatened to ruin my political career and she told me that I would She said this in anger,” Hernandez said. He said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hernandez said, “I’m still recovering from PTSD and other trauma from my legislative experience with Tina. It’s safe to say that her bullying and racism destroyed my soul.”

Through her report, he accused Healy of trying to normalize behavior that allowed legislative leaders to use bullying, intimidation, intimidation, yelling and outbursts to achieve their goals. Did.

according to State Capitol Rulesthe investigation into Hernandez’s complaint was supposed to be completed within 84 days, but it took more than a year.

Clem, who is a Democrat like Hernandez, did not want to influence the election, so he begged Healy to complete her investigation months ago.

Hernandez, who represented the working-class district of eastern Portland, announced he would be stepping down in February 2021, days before the House was scheduled to vote on whether to oust him. A panel of parliamentarians determined that he created a hostile work environment for his three women.

In her letter, Kotek said Hernandez’s complaint against her “was a blatant attempt to distract people from his own harmful behavior.”

She asked the commission to confirm the independent investigator’s findings.

Cotec’s campaign declined to comment further to reporters after Wednesday’s hearing.

The House Action Committee must schedule another meeting to decide whether to accept Healy’s report or consider taking action against Cotec.

Clem said he was nervous about testifying because he feared retaliation from Kotek. He testified from South Korea and said he was working on a project that could create thousands of jobs in Oregon, referring to plans to build a shipping container terminal at the Coos Bay port where Clem grew up.

“That project has to be licensed by the next governor,” Clem said. “We don’t want our participation (in Cotec’s investigation) to harm the project.”