Oregon House Democratic leadership responded today to allegations that Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley) groped a female employee of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries last week at the AFL-CIO statewide convention.
Co-House Speakers Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) and Bruce Hanna (R-Roseberg) this afternoon stripped Schaufler, 51, of his co-chairmanship of the powerful House Business and Labor Committee but the move is clearly the Democrats' call.
Schaufler shared the committee chair's gavel in 2011 with Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City) but Schaufler, who led the committee himself in 2009, ran the show. The former contractor's strong ties to trade unions have made him a big player on labor issues and so Dems' decision not only to remove his gavel today but toss him off the Business and Labor Committee altogether is a blow to the five-term representative's standing.Here is a statement Roblan issued explaining the move:
Last week an incident occurred involving Representative Mike Schaufler. After personally investigating the incident, including having several conversations with those involved, I have determined that the strongest course of action available to me is to remove Rep. Schaufler as both chair and as a member of the House Business and Labor Committee. I am taking this action immediately to show how seriously I view this incident.
On Sept. 26 a campaign worker and colleague of mine stuck a campaign sticker on my chest without my permission. I reacted by taking the sticker off of my chest and sticking it on her chest. In hindsight I wish I had simply removed the sticker from my chest and reminded my colleague that I did not support that candidate.
My knee jerk response had no sexual intent and was not any kind of sexual advance. I am well aware of the social, physical and legal differences between a man's chest and a woman's.
My reaction was instantaneous, not well thought out and certainly meant no harm. It was in reaction to what was no more than innocent horse play on my colleague's part.
I apologized to my colleague that same evening. Her and I have had a friendly and professional relationship for years that I hope we can continue.
I know she meant me no harm. I hope she can believe the same of me.
I have refrained from using my colleague's name here out of sensitivity to her.
Although memos making appointments to and discharges from House committee assignments come from both Co-Speakers, the working agreement in the House under the 30-30 tie is that each Speaker is responsible for appointing their respective party's committee co-chairs and members. Co-Speakers Hanna and Roblan have respected this practice since the first round of committee appointments. As a result, it is inaccurate to report or indicate that the decision to remove Rep. Schaufler from HBL was a joint decision or one made by each of them. Co-Speaker Hanna learned about the alleged incident for the first time only after it was posted online by the Willamette Week, and by the time he learned about it, Co-Speaker Roblan had already made the decision to remove Rep. Schaufler since it pertained to a member of his party. Now that he is aware of the incident, Co-Speaker Hanna will engage in appropriate due diligence to get up to speed on all of the facts.