State senator's stealth jab at incoming colleague draws rebuke
SALEM — A state senator caught on tape slipping anonymous packets under the doors of at least seven other senators last month has been warned his conduct could be considered workplace harassment.
The letter's public disclosure is the latest in a series of actions by state Sen. Brian Boquist, a Dallas Republican, that have raised eyebrows and prompted concern at the Capitol.
Boquist's conduct recently drew a written warning from the Legislature's top in-house lawyer, Dexter Johnson. "I strongly urge you to be mindful your actions and the appearance of your actions so that concerns about workplace harassment are not raised again," Johnson, the legislative counsel, wrote in a "memo of concern" dated Dec. 5.
Such communications are typically confidential, but Boquist disclosed the memo Friday by distributing it to senators and having it posted on a legislative website.
Johnson said senators or their staff discovered documents tucked under their doors the morning of Nov. 15, a Thursday. "In the security camera images, one can discern that the top page of the documents being held by you matches a page of the documents delivered to the offices," Johnson wrote.
Boquist last month acknowledged his conduct in an email to Travis Hampton, Oregon State Police superintendent. Boquist was trying to determine how State Police accessed the Capitol's surveillance video about the delivery.
In his email, Boquist said he delivered the documents to offices on three floors at the Capitol between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. He said he was distributing documents about an incoming senator "as a reminder" to other senators. He said the material included "biographical data, online data and quotes of a candidate who is now a senator-elect."
'Intimidating and hostile?'
Boquist apparently was referring to Jeff Golden of Ashland, a Democrat who will take office next month as a senator. Golden told the Oregon Capital Bureau that the materials other senators received referenced things he had said and done in the 1970s. These included an excerpt from a book he wrote in his early 20s about working on a cooperative farm in the south, that "by 2018 standards does not read well," Golden said.
During his campaign for Senate, certain statements about women in the book were lifted from the book and used in campaign mailers against him. At the time, Golden said such statements were lifted out of context.
Johnson wrote Boquist that some senators and their employees considered the anonymous delivery "coupled with the demonstrated insider access needed to complete delivery of the documents, to be very intimidating and hostile," Johnson wrote.
Similar material was sent to another person's Capitol office and home address, Johnson said. The version Boquist made public redacted that name, though Johnson noted that Boquist used a home address that the individual "has taken steps to shield from being publicly known."
Johnson advised Boquist that some recipients also considered the stealth delivery to be "an act of retaliation."
Boquist seeks apology
Johnson's warning came nearly three weeks after Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, directed Boquist to "cease and desist" intimidating communications with legislative staff and lawmakers. Courtney's letter to Boquist followed an exchange of emails with lawmakers and staff concerning the Legislature's implementation of stronger equal pay protections.
Boquist could not be reached for comment late Friday. Earlier in the week, he denied Courtney's accusation and asked him to apologize. He also said he would move to censure Courtney, but he didn't act to do so when the Senate convened for the day Friday. In an email Tuesday, Dec. 11, Boquist advised the state Elections Division and the Oregon Government Ethics Commission he intended to file complaints regarding allegations he said are "both civil and criminal." He said the allegations concern Courtney's office but didn't specify who would be the target of his complaint.
Courtney, in a phone interview late Friday, said he was willing to meet with Boquist, or anyone else, to work through issues.
"My door is always open," Courtney said. "I'm willing to talk."
Boquist has represented the mid-Willamette Valley in the Senate since 2009, and served in the House before that. He has played an important role working with Democrats on key legislation, such as last year's transportation package.
In February, Boquist quit a bicameral committee aimed at improving the education system in protest over a tax proposal affecting small-business owners that later became law. He followed his protest by suing legislative leaders and other state officials for what he was a constitutional violation in enacting the tax.