Last week, Representative Tammie Wilson (R – North Pole) sent out a press release questioning the new mandatory sexual harassment training and also called for House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux (R – Anchorage) to resign. The press release can be seen here:
The Alaska Landmine obtained an email from December 20, 2017 where Wilson responded to an email from LeDoux to all house members and staff about the mandatory training. Wilson only included Representatives LeDoux, Millett, and Chenault on the response.
In the email Wilson stated, “House leadership chose to sit on an allegation that was submitted in March, by a staff member, in which other women were negatively impacted. If this behavior continues how will training solve this? I personally know what it is to be harassed and discriminated and nothing being done after making a report to leadership so unless I better understand how attending such a training will solve this issue there is no point of attending.”
LeDoux’s response included, “I’m sorry that you experienced harassment personally. You said that you went to leadership and nothing was done regarding that circumstance. I would assume this is not our current leadership.”
Wilson Goes on the Record
I called Wilson to get clarification about what she meant in her email. She told me that towards the end of the 2016 legislative session her and a colleague, who she would not name, went to senate leadership to complain about then Senator Bill Stoltze acting inappropriately. The complaint stemmed from an incident where Stoltze stormed into her office after a capital appropriation that he had slipped into the budget for a water project in Palmer was taken out by the house. Wilson said, “He went off the handle. He was screaming, yelling, and calling me bad names. It was very inappropriate behavior.” A witness to the incident told the Alaska Landmine that Stoltze was repeatably yelling, “Fucking cunt!” Several people, mostly men, witnessed the incident and did nothing.
Wilson said that her colleague went to senate leadership to report the behavior and to have it dealt with. All they wanted was the behavior to stop. They were told to, “Just avoid him.” Wilson would not say which member of senate leadership they went to but added the person is no longer there. The only person who was in senate leadership at the time, who is no longer there, is current candidate for governor Charlie Huggins. He was Senate Rules Chair at the time. The Senate President at the time was Kevin Meyer, current candidate for lieutenant governor.
I thought about who the unnamed colleague could be. At the time, then Representative Lynn Gattis shared an office with Wilson while the legislature was temporarily in the Bill Ray Center while the Capitol was being renovated. I called her to see if she was the colleague in question. She would only say, “I have no comment at this time.” Gattis is currently a candidate for lieutenant governor.
A History of Bullying Behavior
Stoltze’s temper is widely known by people in the Capitol. Wilson spoke of another incident with Stoltze that occurred when they were both in the house. She had introduced a bill dealing with private property rights and the Alaska Railroad. Stoltze was apparently very unhappy with the bill. Wilson said he stormed into a meeting yelling about the bill and calling her very inappropriate names. He left very angry, punched out a window in the men’s bathroom, and then tore up his office. Multiple sources confirmed that he did in fact punch out the window.
No formal complaint was made but the incident was widely known about in the Capitol. Representative Mike Chenault was Speaker of the House at the time. Chenault is currently a candidate for governor. It appears nothing was done about the behavior. Maybe this is why she copied him on her email back to LeDoux. Wilson said Stoltze never apologized and his bullying behavior continued. She also said that no one from house leadership ever spoke with her about any repercussions. Bill Stoltze did not respond to multiple inquiries for comment on this story.
This is yet another example of elected officials being shielded from scrutiny by other elected officials. In the midst of all the issues in the legislature dealing with the reporting of inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment, and a hostile work place, it is clear that this problem is not a partisan issue. The system is broken and until the system gets fixed these problems will persist. In nearly every work environment in America this kind of behavior would not be tolerated. If someone were subject to the kind of hostile work environment that Wilson and her colleague experienced, and were simply told to just avoid the person, they would undoubtedly have legal recourse. The legislature seems to operate under an entirely different set of rules than the rest of us. It’s time things got fixed once and for all.