Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek this morning demoted two lawmakers for their public remarks, as she tries to contain the fallout from a sexual harassment scandal that has paralyzed the Capitol.
Kotek today removed Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) as chairman of the House Committee on Health Care, after he made what Kotek described as "demeaning comments toward two individuals who were testifying before his committee." She also removed him entirely from the House Conduct Committee.
Greenlick has drawn the ire of House Republicans since he berated a pharmaceuticals lobbyist in a hearing last week, calling him "stupid." Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Wednesday on those remarks.
Greenlick, long an irascible leader, has been previously criticized for dressing down witnesses to his committee, and has also warred with constituents this session over vaccines.
Kotek also removed Rep. Bill Post (R-Salem) from the House Committee on Judiciary, citing "two inappropriate tweets, one regarding a member of the Senate and one regarding an upcoming lobby day." One of those tweets invited gun-rights groups to a gun-control rally with the words, "be ready, be there."
In a letter to lawmakers, Kotek explained her decisions as part of an effort to change Salem's culture following a sexual harassment scandal that has embroiled much of the Legislative leadership, herself included.
"The Legislature is committed to ensuring that the Capitol is a safe and supportive environment for all who work here or engage in the legislative process," she writes. "From additional training to improved policies and protocols, the Legislature is moving forward. We are all part of that change."
But Kotek's decisions are also likely to draw backlash from both parties—given that she's demoting both men for using their positions of power to be rude to their political opposition.
Here is Kotek's letter.
Dear Colleagues and Staff,
The Legislature is committed to ensuring that the Capitol is a safe and supportive environment for all who work here or engage in the legislative process. From additional training to improved policies and protocols, the Legislature is moving forward. We are all part of that change.
As your Speaker, I have set expectations about this change and have been communicating my expectations when appropriate. I take this work seriously. Whether you are a member or a staff person, no matter what your political viewpoint, we must all be accountable to the people we serve.
This week, separate situations involving two House members require me to take specific and clear action to uphold the new standards we are all trying to model.
Representative Mitch Greenlick made a serious mistake during Tuesday's House Committee on Health Care when he made demeaning comments toward two individuals who were testifying before his committee. Consequently, Representative Greenlick will not continue as chair. Representative Andrea Salinas will become chair, effective immediately. Representative Greenlick will also be removed from the House Conduct Committee. He will be replaced by Representative John Lively, and Representative Nancy Nathanson will become the new chair of that committee.
Representative Bill Post has been the subject of ongoing complaints raised by members of the public regarding his use of social media. I have had several conversations with him about my expectations of how best to balance free speech rights and the appropriate conduct of an elected leader. This week, he wrote two inappropriate tweets, one regarding a member of the Senate and one regarding an upcoming lobby day. Given the pattern of his behavior, I believe it is necessary to remove him from his position on the House Committee on Judiciary, effective immediately. Representative Duane Stark will be appointed to Judiciary; Representative Shelly Boshart Davis will be appointed to the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development to replace Representative Stark.
The effort we are making to transform our workplace culture is complex and difficult. I do not take my responsibilities lightly and recognize the significance of these actions on the lives of my two colleagues. Nonetheless, we must always strive to do what is best for the people of Oregon and the Legislature as an institution. We must continue to have open, public dialogue if we are to move forward in a productive way to improve this workplace.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters.