Kruse resigns over misconduct allegations
State Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, submitted his resignation Thursday over allegations he persistently subjected women at the Oregon Capitol to unwelcome touching.
The resignation is effective March 15, so he will continue to receive a legislator's salary and $142 in-session per diem. He has agreed not to come to the Capitol and will not be voting on the Senate floor during the rest of the 35-day legislative session, which ends March 11, said Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, whose district includes Tigard.
Despite a damning report by an independent investigator released Tuesday, Kruse, in a statement, continued to deny the allegations against him.
"For civil rights to be meaningful, there must be civil rights for all people, including the right to fundamental fairness for persons accused of harassment," Kruse wrote.
He said he regretted he would not have the opportunity to defend himself before the Senate Conduct Committee.
"However, today, I tender my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians without distraction and my constituents may receive the fullest representation they are due," he said.
The conduct committee, of two Democrats and two Republicans, was scheduled to hear the complaints against him and review the independent investigation report on Feb. 22. Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton was scheduled to chair the committee.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said Kruse "made the right decision."
Courtney said he had been working with Senate Republican leaders throughout the week to secure Kruse's resignation.
"While Sen. Kruse's resignation ends a difficult chapter for the Legislature, we cannot allow it to end this discussion," Courtney said. "We owe it to the courageous women who came forward to seize this moment."
The investigation report was prompted by two public complaints by Sens. Sara Gelser, D-Corvalis, and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton. The senators sought Kruse's expulsion from the Senate after a confidential, informal complaint process in 2016 failed to change his behavior.
The investigation showed that Kruse had subjected multiple female lawmakers, staff members and interns to unwanted touching and that he had not taking requests to stop seriously.
Steiner Hayward said Kruse's resignation was long overdue.
"Sen. Kruse's resignation is long overdue," Beaverton's Steiner Hayward said in a Thursday evening press release. "The detail in the formal complaints made in November by Sen. Gelser and myself should have been compelling enough for him to recognize the inappropriateness of his behavior.
"I am relieved that he has finally acknowledged the correct course of action. His resignation will allow the many victims identified through the investigation to begin their healing; the Senate to move forward with the people's business; and his constituents to once again have representation in the Legislature.
"I am hopeful that the thoroughness of the independent investigation will empower other women to speak up when they are subjected to harassment."
Burdick said the accounts by multiple female lawmakers, staff members and interns in an independent investigation report released Tuesday were "devastating."
"I believe the women who courageously came forward," Burdick said. "It was past time for Sen. Kruse to resign. We now have work to do to make our Capitol a harassment-free workplace, and that all individuals are respected."
Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters of Salem thanked Kruse for his 22 years of service to Oregon.
"He has been a true advocate for his district and rural Oregon. As we move forward, we must work to provide a safe work environment for all," she said in a statement.
Kruse said representing the residents in the counties of Curry and portions of Coos, Douglas, Josephine and Jackson had been the "greatest honor" of his life.
"I have been proud to serve alongside my colleagues in the Oregon House and Senate, and I am very proud of my accomplishments in healthcare and education," he said. "I look forward to returning to the wonderful community that has supported me for over two decades."