Alaska lawmakers release draft harassment policy

Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage), left, talks during a meeting of the Legislative Council subcommittee on sexual and other workplace harassment on Jan. 25. Legislative human resources manager Skiff Lobaugh, Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) and Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) listen. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO)

Lawmakers have released a draft policy that would revise how the Legislature handles sexual and other workplace harassment.

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The draft is modeled on Oregon’s policy. It is much more detailed than the current version, which the Legislature adopted in 2000.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Matt Claman is the vice chair of the subcommittee working on the policy. He said the Oregon guidelines had the clearest procedure to file a complaint of any examined by the subcommittee.

“There was consensus on the committee to base our policy and procedure on that Oregon procedure, that looked to make a lot of sense,” Claman said.

Harassment became an issue in the fall, when legislative aides and women outside of the Legislature alleged sexual harassment by Kiana Democratic Rep. Dean Westlake, who resigned in December.

The Oregon policy requires that independent investigators handle complaints against legislators. The Alaska draft policy is not yet clear about how these complaints would be handled. Claman said the Legislature’s human resources manager may be in the best position to investigate lawmakers.

The draft policy would require the House speaker and Senate president to appoint special committees on conduct that would covene if a lawmaker has been investigated for alleged misconduct. These committees would have equal numbers from the majority and minority parties. The committees would recommend to each chamber whether to take disciplinary action. Then the chamber would vote the next day that it convenes.

The draft policy would give people one year to file a formal or informal complaint about harassment. Claman said the filing period should draw from existing federal standards.

Claman said the subcommittee plans to meet weekly until it finishes work on the draft policy. He didn’t put a deadline on its work, but says it would work steadily. Its next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at

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